Call for transparency over infrastructure levy receipts

Charging authorities should be more transparent about the amount of money they are collecting through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) development tariff and what it is being spent on, a senior civil servant has said.

Infrastructure: CIL regulations require charging authorities to report to their local community (picture: Highways England)
Infrastructure: CIL regulations require charging authorities to report to their local community (picture: Highways England)

Speaking yesterday at a seminar organised by property industry lobby group the British Property Federation, Jane Everton, deputy director for planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), said that councils could do more to increase transparency over CIL receipts in their areas.

CIL regulations require charging authorities to report to their local community on the amount of levy revenue collected, spent and retained each year.

But Everton said: "Reporting what you are doing in a bit of a website once a year doesn’t really feel like transparency to me, or actually the best way of engaging communities about this, and probably not the best way for volume builders who are contributing to this to feel they are actually getting some line of accountability or acknowledgement of what they are putting in for what they are getting out."

Earlier, Everton - who is soon to leave the DCLG’s planning directorate to take on a role tackling rogue landlords in the private rented sector - had told the seminar that CIL "is very much here to stay". 

She said that the government’s recently-announced CIL review would be considering how CIL can be used to secure community backing for development.

She said that ministers viewed CIL as a tool to "get communities onside, in terms of transparency and engagement around infrastructure. It’s not just the amounts and how CIL is done, it’s really what it delivers in terms of bringing communities onside that is also going to be really important and that will be very much picked up in the review".

Stephen Ashworth, partner at law firm Dentons, who chaired the seminar, said that Everton’s comments highlighted how the government's objectives for CIL had changed over time.

"It was quite interesting when Jane talked about the objective being to deliver community involvement to secure community consent to development," he said.

"If you look back at the impact assessment that supported CIL in the first place, it was much more about spreading the burden of the cost of infrastructure."

Alex Taylor, associate acquisitions and development director at purpose build student accommodation provider Unite Students, told the seminar that some charging authorities are using the adoption of CIL to stymie student accommodation developments. "There is a political agenda there," he said.

Taylor pointed to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ CIL rate for student accommodation development, which he said was six times higher than the charge levied by its neighbour the City of London. 

"It does matter, because as with office and residential, there is a requirement for student accommodation," he said. "Simply, supply in London is drying up. Unite don’t have any schemes beyond 2016 - we’re on site on one in Islington and one in Wembley, and beyond that we don’t have any pipeline coming forward in London."

Taylor added: "What I would call for is common sense. CIL rates should obviously take account of geography, but it shouldn’t politically prejudice against certain asset classes."

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