About a year ago it became apparent that the government was going to keep the fundamentals of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Authorities who had paused to see what would happen with CIL started work on it again. I have been involved in both the CIL Front Runner projects and it has been a steep learning curve for all.
The key things I have learnt are:
– there is no one way to ‘DO’ CIL
– don’t make it too complicated
– select robust, costed, infrastructure projects as indicative evidence, and make sure there is a significant aggregate funding gap as your CIL target.
– the CIL rate will be determined by viability, but not dictated by viability; you do have choices
It might not feel like it now but setting the CIL will be the easy bit.
You need to set up the obvious administrative processes for collection, monitoring, auditing and enforcing CIL. Involve colleagues in other departments e.g. finance and legal. Will you need to change the planning system software, and will Finance have to change theirs?
What policies will you adopt for charities, and for exemptions?
What will you use CIL for and what will you use S106 for?
One of the most important things you need to do is set up the governance arrangements for CIL. I would strongly suggest that you do this before you are discussing £2 million in CIL money that has just come in. The new ‘pet’ project might be the happy recipient of the money rather than the boring but essential sewerage work extension or road junction improvement.
As planning officers, you should know your plan and you should also have a good idea of the infrastructure priorities for delivery for each of the sites that are coming forward in your plan. You should be able to say: What is essential for work to start on site? What is necessary to: mitigate, and for place making,
ensuring that existing community facilities are not overstretched? What are the nice to haves?
Take a report to Members, at the earliest opportunity, outlining proposed governance arrangements for CIL that will facilitate the delivery of their plan. Officers need to identify to Members the prioritisation of infrastructure to allow delivery and put in place the mechanisms to work with other delivery bodies such as County councils, parishes, utilities, and neighbouring authorities. Members may not agree with your prioritisation but through this process the Council’s priorities will be determined. For Members (and officers) in many authorities the idea of passing money to a different authority or body will be entirely alien and unwelcome.
As a charging authority, you are now in the driving seat for delivery. Where the developer sorted out the project planning and much of the necessary infrastructure delivery before CIL, the developer may be looking at you asking when you will have delivered the infrastructure necessary for them to get on site. The delivery of your plan and your vision will be down to you. The realisation of the change potentially created by CIL in terms of responsibility for delivery is a shock to many authorities. This realisation will no doubt require new skills not just from planners in authorities but also from other management team members – how bold and/or creative are your finance people? If the infrastructure needs to be delivered before the developer gets on site – do you have forward funding mechanisms?
As part of the governance of CIL, consider early what your mechanism for deciding what you collect CIL for and what will be s106 (or s278 of Highways Act). The choices you make may be based on delivery and/or the viability across your area and your approach to differentiation of your CIL rate.
Your ability to deliver supporting infrastructure may become a matter of reputation for the Council.
There are a lot of questions that you need to address, do that now as part of the CIL setting rather than when you have a cheque for £2 million to spend.