CIL is 'threat' to London student accommodation schemes, says BPF

'Sky high' Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges are threatening the viability of purpose-built student housing developments in London, the British Property Federation (BPF) has claimed.

Student accommodation: manifesto warns of CIL threat (picture by Elliott Brown)
Student accommodation: manifesto warns of CIL threat (picture by Elliott Brown)

The property industry lobby group contends that some councils in London are charging excessive levels of CIL as a deliberate tactic, in order to block what may be unpopular student housing schemes.

At the same time, the BPF complains that lack of clarity over council tax charges for student accommodation has created inconsistency over the billing of developers as well as student residents.

The BPF has launched a manifesto that calls for a more supportive policy framework for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

"In London some huge Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges are severely hurting viability," the manifesto said. "It is important that the government abides by its promise to review CIL in 2015 and we would like stronger guidance on how PBSA is treated."

Melanie Leach, chief executive of the BPF, said: "Because the sector is relatively new, there can be ‘grey areas’ in how it should be classified for policy purposes."

But Mike Kiely, planning consultant and chair of the board of the Planning Officers Society, rejected the idea that councils would employ levying tactics to block student housing schemes – something that he said planning regulations do not allow.

He said: "I think authorities are aware that if they try to behave tactically, they are likely to be found out.

"When you’re setting your CIL rate, it is subject to examination. If the rates are getting through the process, what it means is, the values are there for student housing and those developments can afford that rate of CIL. If the BPF or the student housing providers disagree with that, then they can challenge it at an inquiry."

He observed that student accommodation schemes could present problems if they were deemed to risk upsetting mixed community planning with an over-concentration of student housing in one area.

However, he stressed: "CIL is not the tool for dealing with that; other planning policy tools should be brought to bear. It’s a land use planning issue."

The manifesto is available here.

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