New council proposal to ask developers to pay for infrastructure

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THE JURY is out over the impact a new property tax will have on building in Wealden.

It has prompted some developers to ask why they should be expected to contribute to infrastructure when that should be the council’s job. They are joining builders and land agents to query the imposition of a new Community Infrastructure Levy, (CIL.) This aims to replace the former Section 106 contributions (roof taxes) and distribute contributions towards Wealden’s infrastructure improvements across a wider range of developments.

Chris Lawson of Lawson Commercial told the Express: “I am still making my way through the 140-plus pages of information about this system. One thing that concerns me is that commercial property is rated for a zero levy with Wealden saying that’s because there will not be any. However they have 135,000 square feet of industrial development written into the Core Strategy as part of the 1,000-house scheme south-west of Uckfield.”

The council says that under the current system only six per sent of all planning permissions granted make any contribution to the cost of supporting infrastructure even though smaller developments can create a need for new services. Under the new CIL – in force from 2014 - planning authorities can levy a charge on those who benefit from planning permission. A spokesman added: “The money raised will be an important top up to help fund key infrastructure improvements for roads, schools and other community facilities within the District.

Planning cabinet member Cllr Roy Galley said: “The CIL is a faster and fairer system of levying money to ensure that new developments are supported by the necessary infrastructure. We are proposing a rate which we think will make a significant contribution to both local infrastructure and the delivery of strategic improvements for the wider District.

“It should do so without jeopardising the new development to help drive the local economy. Almost all development has some impact on the need for infrastructure, services and amenities - or benefits from it - so it is only fair that such development pays a share of the cost.”

The Council has drawn up a preliminary schedule of charges and welcomes views from landowners, developers, service providers and communities about its plans. The period for consultation will run for six weeks from now until 5.00pm on Friday 21 September 2012.

But Chris Lawson underlined a major snag. He pointed out the levy will not be applied until the buildings are completed. He added: “Before anyone buys a bit of land and decides what they want to build on it, they need to know what the potential tax charges might be. It’s no good charging afterwards.”

The CIL is expected to raise an estimated additional £1billion a year nationally of funding for infrastructure improvements by 2016.