Multi-million pound get out clause for developers again criticised by council
PUBLISHED: 17:28 17 January 2019
A scheme helping developers sidestep paying millions towards local projects has again been lamented by one of the region's councils.
In November, Norwich City Council introduced a process by which developers could apply to avoid contributing to a pool of money used to help fund major infrastructure projects across the county.
City Hall’s plan to introduce a relief scheme for this levy came under heavy criticism from other members of the Greater Norwich Partnership at the time, but was still introduced.
Now, as South Norfolk Council’s scrutiny committee prepares to discuss its response to the move, the scheme has again come in for criticism.
In a report to the committee, Phil Courtier, South Norfolk and Broadland’s joint head of planning, said the city council’s decision undermined the partnership.
He said: “At the outset in 2015 it was anticipated that CIL would have provided circa £120m by 2026. This figure has reduced over time, not least because of government changes to the CIL and the anticipated income is now closer to £50m.
“Further reductions to this total income will erode the ability of the partnership to deliver the infrastructure necessary to support to adopted growth agenda.
“Similarly it will spread the burden of funding the necessary infrastructure elsewhere, which will include spreading the burden to the other partners. The greater the number of exemptions then the greater the potential burden.”
However, Mr Courtier conceded that the partners would not be justified in taking any action in response to the relief policy - but that if it had objections to any potential exceptions it would make it well known.
Mr Courtier recommended the scrutiny committee call for City Hall to include an amendment to its relief policy to make Greater Norwich partners party to decisions over the applications.
A City Hall spokesman said: “Due to the process agreed by council, CIL exemption applications will be determined in the public domain.
“Therefore, under the adopted policy it will be open to South Norfolk Council or any other group or individual to make representations it sees fit on applications submitted for CIL relief.”
What is CIL?
The community infrastructure levy (CIL) is a charge developers of major schemes are required to pay when delivering a project.
The payment goes into a pool which can be borrowed from by any member of the Greater Norwich Partnership - which is made up of Norwich, Broadland, South Norfolk and Norfolk county councils.
Each council collects its own CIL payments and pools the money together, which any of the four partner councils can apply to borrow from.
In November, Norwich City Council introduced a system by which developers can apply to be relieved from paying this scheme, if they can prove the project would otherwise be unviable if they contribute it.
It is a scheme that the developers behind the £271m regeneration of Anglia Square has already bid to take advantage of, which, if successful would see them avoid paying £8.8m.
In the past, City Hall has said it is hoped to relief scheme would make “difficult” brownfield land - such as the Unilever site - more attractive to potential investors.