UK: CIL Reform: What The Dickens!

Last Updated: 26 July 2019
Article by Matthew White

"Large amounts don't grow on trees.
You've got to pick-a-pocket or two."

On 1 September 2019, the CIL Regulations will be amended – yet again. Among the various technical changes is the removal of Regulation 123, which currently prevents local planning authorities using more than five section 106 obligations to fund a single infrastructure project. This is widely referred to as the "pooling restriction".

This change has two significant implications for developers:

  • First, there will no longer be any restriction on local planning authorities asking for section 106 contributions towards infrastructure that is also being funded by CIL. This practice, known as "double dipping" means that developers could end up paying twice towards the same infrastructure.
  • Secondly, local planning authorities will no longer be restricted to spending CIL receipts on infrastructure that is specified in their Regulation 123 lists. Instead, an annual infrastructure funding statement will be published which sets out the infrastructure projects which the charging authority intends will be, or may be, wholly or partly funded by CIL; and which reports on CIL and planning obligations received and spent over the previous year.

How has this happened?

The pooling restriction was certainly a problem. In 2016, the City of London Law Society Planning and Environmental Law Committee was among the organisations that gave evidence to the government's independent CIL Review Panel saying that the pooling restriction had become a barrier to the delivery of infrastructure, particularly in relation to strategic sites in multiple ownerships and involving multiple applications. The Committee recommended allowing applicants for major developments to opt out of the CIL regime in favour of negotiating a bespoke infrastructure agreement under existing section 106 arrangements instead.

Unfortunately, the changes to the Regulations only deal with one side of the equation. By removing Regulation 123, infrastructure can be funded by section 106 contributions once again. But by failing to allow major developments to opt out of CIL, the door has been opened to double dipping.

The government's summary of responses to its technical consultation on the proposed reforms revealed that three private sector organisations expressed concerns about double dipping and four local authorities called for guidance to clarify the position on this issue. The government acknowledged the comments made about the use of CIL and section 106 planning obligations in this way and said that guidance will be provided on this issue. No new guidance has been issued yet, however.

My understanding of MHCLG's view is that CIL receipts will never be enough to fund all of the infrastructure needed in an area, so it is legitimate to collect section 106 contributions in addition to CIL. But that view ignores the whole foundation on which CIL was originally established: to fund specific items of infrastructure identified by the local authority, with charging rates set according to their anticipated cost after independent examination.

The government considers that these reforms will increase transparency. But by removing Regulation 123 lists and allowing double dipping, the link between CIL rates and the cost of defined infrastructure projects has been broken. Consequently, from 1 September CIL will become a very complex land value capture mechanism masquerading as an infrastructure funding tariff.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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