What can the neighbourhood element of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) be spent on?*
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a planning charge introduced by the Planning Act 2008 (and brought into force by 2010 Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations) as a mechanism for local authorities to provide or improve infrastructure that will support the development of their area.
In England, where there is a neighbourhood development plan in place, the neighbourhood is entitled to 25% of CIL revenues from new development taking place in the plan area (for areas without a neighbourhood plan, the neighbourhood proportion of CIL is a lower figure of 15%). This money is paid directly to parish and town councils. Where there is a neighbourhood forum rather than a town/parish council, the local authority retains the 25%, but is required by law to consult with the community on how this money is allocated.
It is therefore very important that neighbourhood planning groups are aware of the relevance of CIL to their plan and are explicit in terms of how the neighbourhood element of CIL should be allocated i.e. on infrastructure projects that reflect local priorities and are based on sound evidence. Such projects may include the provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure, or anything else that is concerned with addressing demands that development places on an area.
There are now many good examples of CIL policy within neighbourhood plans, which usefully demonstrate what CIL money can be spent on:
Newton Abbot Neighbourhood Plan includes a specific policy on ‘Use of Community Infrastructure Levies’, making it clear that any CIL raised will be used to support the delivery of priority projects including: a ‘community hub’ project with premises for the Town Council and Museum and a home for local community organisations; the provision of appropriate community facilities within all new housing developments around the town; celebration of the town’s heritage through the installation of appropriate public art features; and ‘greening’ of the open space in specific location, to include the installation of outdoor play equipment. Phil Rowe, Town Clerk at Newton Abbot Town Council explains that ‘the basic evidence for the list of CIL projects came from the Council’s 2008 Community Plan; the neighbourhood development plan public consultation exercises; and the Council’s annual town meetings, held since 2008, when the public priories are reviewed each year.
Duston Neighbourhood Plan includes a ‘funding and implementation mechanisms’ section which identifies priority infrastructure projects, linked to the plan policies, designed to inform the spending of the neighbourhood element of CIL (as well as the negotiation of Section 6 agreements). These include: housing for older people; environmental improvements in identified local character areas; conservation area improvements and developing better walking and cycling links to schools.
West Hampstead and Fortune Green Neighbourhood Plan has a policy which details CIL priorities. These are broken down in to three categories: a, most urgent; b, should be provided; and c, also needed, in order to provide a clear expression of the communities wishes. Items in category ‘a’ include amongst others: pedestrian improvements in West Hamstead Growth Area; improvements to the train stations in the Area; the provision of new green/open space; and the protection of existing trees and provision of new trees. With this example in mind, it is worth drawing attention to a recent report by Neighbourhood Planners.London – Neighbourhood Element of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL): The London experience (September 2016) – which recommends that ‘in the London context of multiple planning authorities more direction and guidance is needed to ensure consistency in the way that CIL spending priorities in a neighbourhood plan are identified, negotiated and agreed between a neighbourhood forum and the local authority prior to examination and referendum stage [and] the outcome should subsequently be incorporated within an authority’s Regulation 123 List’ (2016, p.3). Whilst this recommendation is specific to London, it does serve highlight that for neighbourhood forums in particular, effective, ongoing communication and engagement with the local authority is essential with regard to the allocation of CIL funds.
* NB – The outcome of DCLG’s review of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) may affect current arrangements.