CIL spending board – December 2019

CIL

The Community Infrastructure Levy Spending board met on the 9th December 2019.

How CIL works

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is charged in proportion to floor area when certain categories of new developments are built within the district, including new residential property. CIL is charged at a rate of £125 per square metre in most of the district while a minority of wards (including Ash and new Ash Green) see charging for residential developments at a lower level of £75/m2.

Of this £125/m2 or £75/m2 the local Parish/Town council retains £31.25/m2, to spend on local infrastructure improvements. 5% of the money collected goes into the District Council’s general funds, out of which the council also pays for the administration of the CIL. The rest of the money (something like two thirds of the total) is distributed by the CIL spending board, on which I sit as one of 15 members.

The CIL board meets twice per year, and is free to determine how it allocates money between the projects listed for it to consider. Any available funds which are not allocated are then rolled over to increase the funding available to the board six months later. In principle the board also controls the rules under which the officer-led sifting process is conducted, prior to the Board’s main meetings.

Most infrastructure is, of course, provided either by the County, that than the District Council (e.g. Roads, Buses, many schools) or another authority covering a similarly large area (e.g. Primary Care Trusts). Some County Councillors therefore see it as an anachronistic that Districts get to allocate this money. The justification for this is that Districts are the planning authorities and central Government wishes District and Parish residents to see a local benefit when they permit developments in their own areas. The main positive benefits which come about as a result of the provision of new housing accrue to the nation as a whole, in the incremental increase in the supply of housing in, say, “the south east of England”. Meanwhile, negative impacts of new developments (particularly pressure on infrastructure) normally crystallise quite locally.

CIL largely replaces Section 106 payments, which are normally earmarked to pay for particular identified improvements. On the other hand CIL funding is supposed to provide for contributions to improvements which are necessitated as a result of pressures driven by increased development as a whole.

The upshot is that, on 7th December 2019, the board met to allocate up to £2.03 million pounds, for local infrastructure projects.

Meeting of the CIL board – 7th December 2019

The considered requests, and the amounts allocated, were as follows:

Contribution to re-provision of White Oak Leisure Centre £900,000
Bradbourne Lakes Improvement £252,400
Swanley Transport interventions (£1m requested) £0
Westerham Parking (request reduced from £59,975) £49,975
Kemsing Surgery Extension (£114,646 request) £0
Go-Taxi hire Ltd. and Go-Coach Ltd. (little busses) £71,961

The board was generally impressed with the proposal to extend Kemsing Surgery, but was concerned about how the funds allocated could be safeguarded to see long-term community benefit. Like most GPs surgeries in England, Kemsing Surgery is a privately owned surgery, treating NHS patients. The board was concerned to ensure that, when the current partners retire, most likely selling their surgery, the CIL money should be retained for public benefit (perhaps returning to the CIL board to reallocate, or being retained by the local NHS trust). I am hopeful that an improved proposal may be forthcoming in six months (possibly including some provision from Kemsing Parish Council). There clearly is a need for new GP provision and Kemsing (in common with Ash and New Ash Green) is one of those areas that has not yet seen a local project benefit from a CIL grant. For these reasons the board was keen to encourage a reapplication.

The Swanley Transport improvement proposals are a suit of measures, costing an estimated £5m in total, towards which a CIL contribution of £1m was sought. The board felt that other, smaller projects, ought to be given greater priority. This decision was, to the best of my recollection, unanimously agreed by the board. It is also noticeable that two Swanley Wards have, between them, received over a third of CIL money allocated since May 2018. This includes the 5% CIL contribution to the total cost of the reprovision of the White Oak Leisure centre, in Swanley. The board agreed that CIL should make a contribution to this, but there was some disagreement about whether this commitment should be made now, or only after cost certainty had been obtained. A majority decided to allocate the funding now.

The board was also impressed by proposals concerning the Improvement to Brabourne Lakes and for Parking in Westerham, the latter of which were supported by very convincing proposals from the Town Council (there was also a last minute reduction in the amount of funding requested, together with a boost in contribution from the Town, which the Town Council judged prudent in order to maximise their chance of success at the CIL board. A number of Cllrs were keen to ensure that the improved parking would not lead to the introduction of parking fees, although it was not possible to attach specific conditions relating to this.

Finally, the board also accepted the application from Go-Taxi Hire Ltd. And Go-Coach Ltd. for the purchase of small buses to run within the district (though, for regulatory purposes, they would be large taxis). The idea of smaller busses is certainly a good one, although I was concerned that these busses were going to somewhat excluded non-smartphone users and the owner also seemed to be promising the installation of surveillance cameras within the vehicles, while explicitly stating that there was no particularly pressing need for them.

The decision to award Go-Coach this funding was, therefore, the only decision on which I voted in the minority, though the idea clearly does have its strengths, and I wish the provider well in establishing this service now that his application has been successful.

The official minute of the meeting can be found here.