Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Register
Objective: Review register (monies collected/held/spent and details of how the decisions were made)
Andy Robbins, Head of Planning
Andy Robbins (Interim Head of Planning) noted that CIL was a complex piece of legislation, and highlighted the three key elements of his report: the income received by the CIL; the continuing role of S106 planning obligations in funding infrastructure; and an outline of future proposals for governance arrangements.
He pointed members towards paragraphs 3.1 to 3.5, which outlined matters in terms of CIL receipts and expenditure. A key part of that was the statutory obligation to pass on a certain proportion of CIL receipts to parish councils. Although CIL had been in place for nearly two years now, the receipts had been modest so far. He expected them to increase in year 3 and accelerate significantly after that to become a key financial resource in the delivery of strategic neighbourhood infrastructure. The delay was a product of the relatively slow planning system, as the levy was generally paid upon commencement of development.
The council continued to collect S106 contributions, which were usually for site-specific infrastructure work, such as highway infrastructure improvements. The system by which affordable housing was secured sat separate to CIL. His report then covered the split between strategic infrastructure funding, 70% of which was earmarked for the JCS, and the more modest neighbourhood fund, which the council had more of a free hand over and aimed largely towards the unparished areas of the town. Officers were working on neighbourhood fund governance arrangements which they hoped to bring forward soon. A board would be established in due course with decision-making authority over this budget, although there was no timetable for this yet as they awaited the results of the consultation on the Infrastructure Funding Statement. He added that some strategic infrastructure funding was drawn from other funding streams, including from the county council.
One Member asked for more detail on the list of IFS projects. The Interim Head of Planning responded that he would be happy to circulate the full set of appendices to members after the meeting, and hoped to bring updated information to members in the next couple of months.
One Member suggested that the S106 funding collected from developers was often underwhelming considering what they might expect from them, and the way the funds were used was often divorced from the needs of the community. The Interim Head of Planning explained that there were strict rules on how much S106 funding could be sought and what it could be spent on, so they did not have a strong hand in negotiations. The new regulations made it clear that S106 monies could only be sought where infrastructure was necessary for development to go forward. Community infrastructure funding was difficult to secure under current regulations, whereas in the past they could talk more openly to developers about what they could offer the community. It was important to make the most of what they had to maximise community benefit.
One Member asked whether greater S106 funding and value for money could be delivered if local councillors and stakeholders were more involved in the process. The Interim Head of Planning responded that while there was no formal step involving ward members, they were welcome to contribute and their local knowledge was always valuable. He suggested that a more transparent process would be beneficial for all concerned.
One Member suggested that the committee recommend that Cabinet work with officers to deliver greater ward member engagement in the process. The Interim Head of Planning cautioned against making this a formal system when the planning process was slow enough already. He suggested that instead, officers could give members training on what was available through S106 and how the benefits of this could be maximised. Members were in agreement that this would be helpful.
One Member asked who would sit on the CIL board and how this would be appointed. The Interim Head of Planning responded that he did not know yet, as this would flow from the JCS and local governance arrangements.
One Member thanked the Interim Head of Planning for his summary of what often seemed an arcane system, and asked about the effect of CIL on unparished areas. The Interim Head of Planning explained that the council had the most freedom over how it spent the money in these areas. Many authorities had a bidding system where local groups could apply for funding based on various criteria, and ward members played a key role.
One Member asked whether parishes were penalised for not having a Parish Plan. The Interim Head of Planning clarified that when developments took place in an area with a Parish Plan, the parish received 25% of CIL receipts as opposed to 15% without. This was intended as an incentive for local communities to develop their own plans, rather than a punishment for those that did not. The parish council could do what it wanted with their section of the funding, while 70% of the remainder was allocated to strategic infrastructure and 5% to administration costs.
One Member asked whether money raised for the JCS in Cheltenham could be spent in the other JCS boroughs. The Interim Head of Planning AR responded that funds from this 70% pot could be spent in Cheltenham, Tewkesbury or Gloucester, with the joint development plan aiming to benefit all three areas. The terms of the JCS were continually reviewed and could be changed in the future if the council so desired.
One Member asked who exactly would decide which projects were deserving of funding. The Interim Head of Planning explained that the CIL board would make these decisions.
Members thanked the Interim Head of Planning for his detailed report and informative responses to their questions.