Controversial move to excuse Norwich developers from paying thousands agreed

The Mile Cross depot. Picture: Google

The Mile Cross depot. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

A controversial move to excuse some developers in Norwich from paying a levy of thousands of pounds is crucial if sites are not to stand derelict, council leaders have insisted.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Norwich City Council has agreed to introduce a new policy which will allow an exception to be made over payments of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

But the move has been criticised as potentially handing developers the opportunity to exploit the process to avoid paying their dues.

CIL is a sum which developers building new homes or business floorspace have to pay, which is pooled together and used by local councils for infrastructure, including schools, roads and leisure facilities.

But city council leaders wanted to have the power to not impose the levy, if the development would not be viable should the sum be paid.

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Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'The use of that power, in exceptional circumstances, would enable the charging authority to avoid rendering the site unviable. In short, we would not get CIL anyway if a site cannot be developed.'

The move was criticised by Shaun Vincent and John Fuller, the leaders of Broadland and South Norfolk Councils, who said the CIL money was crucial for infrastructure across Greater Norwich.

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And Denise Carlo, leader of the Green group at City Hall, voted against the introduction of the exemption.

She feared developers would exploit it and use viability assessments to get out of paying the CIL. She said some are avoiding providing affordable homes through such assessments, which are carried out by independent assessors, but chosen by the developer.

Mike Stonard, Labour's cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth, said, when the exemption idea was first put forward, he had reservations.

But he said he was confident there were enough checks and balances in place to ensure it would not be misused and would be a 'good tool' for the council to have.

And Mr Waters added: 'I want to stress, once again, that it would only ever be used very sparingly,'

He said the Mile Cross depot, where the council wants to build homes and potentially a swimming pool, could be one of the sites which might be made exempt from CIL.

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