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What the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) changes mean

03 October 2019

New Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) rules came into force at the start of September, accompanied by a comprehensive update of planning practice guidance. This ranges widely, from how CIL charging schedules should be prepared, to how the money collected can be spent.

One of the completely new sections of guidance requires local authorities to publish details of CIL settlements with housing developers. Residents can therefore see how new homes are directly supporting infrastructure projects such as schools, GP surgeries, or parkland.

The idea is that publishing CIL income and benefits will help to make the prospect of new housing developments more amenable to the community.

Councils will also now be allowed to take site viability and land uplift values into account when setting the levy and set higher CIL charges for high value developments. Similarly, there is new guidance that allows bespoke CIL charges to be levied on sites of strategic importance, thus complementing local plan policies.

Architects can now arm themselves with extended guidance on how CIL indexing should be applied in cases where an existing planning permission has been amended (through Section 73 applications). The guidance offers numerous scenarios in some detail, which is expected to assist negotiations considerably.

There are also changes to the process for claiming exemptions from CIL. Minor developments with a gross internal area of less than 100 square metres are generally exempt from CIL, as are residential annexes and extensions.

Local authorities must now publish details of CIL settlements with housing developers, allowing residents to see what infrastructure any new developments are supporting.

Developers who wish to claim an exemption or reduction in the CIL must serve a commencement notice with the local planning authority before development work begins (except in the case of residential extensions, where commencement notices are no longer required).

Previously, a failure to serve a commencement notice on time would result in automatic rejection of any CIL exemption claim. The new system, however, replaces this with a much less punitive surcharge.

Richard Wooldridge of Harrison Pitt Architects, who sits on the RIBA Planning Group, says the new rules are to be welcomed for generally introducing more flexibility into the system and its application.

“The rules were poorly worded previously, and we know that some local authorities were frustrated by having to apply rules very strictly, against their better judgement,” he states.

Wooldridge reports that the new regime has already benefited one of Harrison Pitt’s clients directly. An application had been made for an exemption from CIL for a large house conversion on self-build grounds.

One of the many self-build houses designed by Harrison Pitt Architects

Some of the evidential paperwork that had been requested under the old system, as part of the application, was essentially not appropriate for this particular building. The greater leeway now permitted to the council under the new regulations allowed the situation to be resolved.

“The new guidance gives planners more discretion,” Wooldridge points out, “It allows them to take a more nuanced view of things for themselves.”

Thanks to Richard Wooldridge, Director, Harrison Pitt Architects.

Text by Neal Morris. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas

RIBA Core Curriculum Topic: Places, planning and communities.
As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, Professional Features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD Core Curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

Posted on 3 October 2019.

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