Council meetings

Agenda item

Community Infrastructure Levy neighbourhood CIL strategy


Resolved: that the Committee would refer its views under this item to Mayor and Cabinet.


5.1    The Chair of the Committee welcomed Councillors Kelleher and Holland, who were attending the meeting under standing orders. He noted the general feeling amongst Councillors that, whilst they understood the reasons for linking the proposals for neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) spending to the timetable for the decision about the local assembly funding, they were separate proposals. He reasoned that additional time should be spent on developing the CIL proposals to ensure that they were right.


5.2    David Syme (Strategic Planning Manager) introduced the report, the following key points were noted:

·         The proposals had been developed based on a set of principles (as follows).

·         Firstly, that there should an equitable distribution of funding. Officers recognised that the impact of development could be felt more broadly than the area that immediately surrounded development – and that wider pressures could be felt on public transport, cycling routes and green spaces away from a major development.

·         It was recognised that a large proportion of current development made use of strategic industrial land in the north of the borough so officers had put forward a mechanism for distribution that took into account areas with most need and included those that did not have large amounts of development land available.

·         The second principle was to ensure that the administration of the funds was workable. It was recognised that the process would be complex – so the intention was to link the proposals with existing structures. This reflected the process recommended in the CIL regulations (recognising existing mechanisms and boundaries.)

·         Other options had been explored, including: the option to combine wards; to create larger sub-areas or the creation of a single pot of funding for the entire borough.

·         It was felt that ward assemblies, as an established mechanism with a firm standing in the community, would be most appropriate.

·         The third principle was to ensure that the process was transparent. The process of allocating neighbourhood CIL would be carried out in stages. The planning service would work with the communities team (which supports local assemblies) to strengthen processes and develop best practice.

·         The fourth principle was to make sure that the proposals aligned with the Council’s corporate strategies. It was recognised that all funding was precious and that funding had to be spent in a meaningful way, with maximum impact.

·         The fifth principle was to ensure that the strategy could be agreed. It had been three years since the Council had started to collect CIL and two years since the process of a neighbourhood CIL strategy had been started. The Council wanted to see the funding being used.

·         Officers had been working on developing the proposals since 2016. The Committee had been given a number of updates on the proposals.

·         The sixth principle was to develop the strategy within the framework of the CIL regulations. There were things that the Council could and could not do, according to the legislation.

·         Consideration had been given to best practice from across London.

·         There has been a pilot project, which helped to develop the prioritisation process.


5.3    Mark Rochell (Lee Forum) addressed the Committee (a note was also submitted on behalf of the Lee Forum and the Blackheath Society. A copy is attached to the minutes) the following key points were noted:

·         It was felt that neighbourhood CIL was a good thing, which if used well could enable communities to have a say about spending in their areas.

·         It was recognised that there were a number of difficulties with the process: firstly, how neighbourhood CIL should be allocated to wards and secondly how wards should spend their allocation.

·         The current proposals from the Council began to answer these questions and the Lee Forum and Blackheath Society welcomed much of what had been included in the plans.

·         However, it was noted that because of the way the proposals had been developed, not all of the funding allocated to neighbourhood CIL was being spent in the wards in which it had been generated.

·         There was concern that the current proposals meant that some wards received less funding than they should as per the regulations.

·         It was proposed that the 50% allocation to neighbourhood CIL should be increased to 60% and that a new allocation at a rate of £1 per resident should be allocated as a ‘flat rate’ to all wards. This could be supplemented in wards with neighbourhood forums to increase the funding to 25%. This additional expenditure should come from the all ward pot.

·         There was concern about how the all ward pot might be used. The Lee Forum and Blackheath Society did not believe that the all ward pot should be used for affordable housing.

·         There was also concern about the fairness of using the local assemblies for the distribution of large amounts of funding, given that some meetings had very few attendees.


5.4    David Syme and Liz Dart (Head of Culture and Community Development) responded to questions from the Committee, the following key points were noted:

·         There were plans in some wards- which currently had very little funding- that would generate significant future CIL receipts. Current proposals represented development over the past three years.

·         The plans for the ‘borough pot’ were the least developed part of the current proposals. The initial intention was that the pot might be used for projects that crossed ward boundaries; there was potential flexibility about the ways in which it could be used.

·         Funding for minority groups could be considered in the plans for spending the borough pot.

·         The CIL retained by the Council would be spent on infrastructure. No neighbourhood CIL would be spent on affordable housing.

·         A great deal of work had to be done to ensure that local assemblies were able to prioritise and deliver projects.

·         CIL funding would have to be allocated and spent in a very different way than assembly funding.

·         Consideration was being given to the ways in which more people could be consulted about funding decisions, this might include options to use digital solutions.

·         Lots of options for spending neighbourhood CIL had been considered. Officers were still open to other suggestions about how the system should work.

·         Officers welcomed the input (and support) of amenity societies.

·         CIL funding remained with the Council until it was allocated and could be audited at any time. The processes for allocating it had to be robust.

·         The regulations did not give a clear indication of the delineation between revenue and capital expenditure.

·         Neighbourhood CIL could be spent on revenue based projects (rather than just capital) if the case could be made that it mitigated the impact of development.

·         The parameters for projects that were acceptable in Lewisham would form part of the development of the current process.

·         Officers would return to the Committee with a report about the increase in CIL that had been proposed.

·         Additional information would be provided about the treatment of ‘in-kind’ CIL payments.


5.5       In Committee discussions, the following key points were also noted:

·         It was recognised there had to be a distribution of funding according to need, however, some councillors felt that the indices of multiple deprivation (IMD) did not provide a precise enough breakdown of the spread of relative deprivation across wards. Officers were asked to consider using other indicators as well as the IMD.

·         Councillors asked whether there could be a standard amount of funding allocated per ward, so that each area had a meaningful sum of funding to spend.

·         The demographics of some wards had changed considerably due to development.

·         Ward demographics and needs changed at different rates in different wards.

·         CIL was designed to mitigate the damage and additional demands created by new development.

·         There was concern that the current proposals were too simplistic.

·         The linking of the proposals to the cut in funding to assemblies had obfuscated the decision making process.

·         Some Members were concerned about the skill and capacity of assembly coordinating groups and officers to deal with significant sums of funding. There was also concern about the accountability and audit of sums being spent.

·         There was concern that ‘popularist’ activities would be the ones that would receive funding because the process would be based on ‘communities of geography’ rather than ‘communities of interest’, such as minority groups.

·         There had been significant small scale development in some areas of the borough which did not meet the threshold for CIL payments but still required funding for new infrastructure.

·         There was a perception that some wards of the borough had more funding, initiatives and support than others.

·         All wards in the borough were facing increasing pressures and losses in spending and services.

·         There were due to be ward boundary changes. This should be taken into consideration.

·         Large developments on the boundary of a ward could have a significant impact on the neighbouring ward.

·         Officers should give consideration to the changes being proposed by the Council for CIL policy and the potential impact on the viability of new developments.

·         The Chair noted submissions from Councillors who could not attend the meeting including the importance of the ongoing democracy review and the potential to use participatory budgeting.


5.6    Resolved: that the Committee would share its views with Mayor and Cabinet as follows –

·         The Committee disagrees with the tight timescale that has been developed for the proposals. It believes that more time should be taken to assess the options and to develop robust proposals.

·         The Committee believes that the process for allocating neighbourhood CIL should be as open, transparent and as fair as possible. However, it recognises that it is not possible to develop a process that will satisfy everyone.

·         The Committee believes that the proposals should give greater recognition to the level of quantifiable change (such as a measurable increase in population) that occurs as a result of new development.

·         The Committee believes that the proposals should give consideration to levels of demonstrable need across the whole borough. The Committee recognises that the primary purpose of CIL is to mitigate the impact of large scale development but it is also conscious that there are areas of borough, without major projects being planned, that have significant need for infrastructure spending.

·         The Committee recommends that consideration be given to an assessment of deprivation that is more specific than the indices of multiple deprivation.

·         The Committee recommends that a baseline sum of funding should be provided for all wards (and that consideration should be given to reducing the all ward pot or increasing the overall level of neighbourhood CIL to fund this).

·         The Committee is concerned about the use of wards to allocate funding. It recommends that consideration should be given to other options for demarcating the areas in which funding can be used. This might include allocating spending to projects within a set distance from a development, rather than within a single ward. The Committee also noted the likely future changes in ward boundaries and it requested that the potential implications of these changes be considered by officers.

·         The Committee recommends that further clarity be provided about the proposed role of councillors in the allocation of funding.

·         The Committee requests that further information be made available about the types of projects that can be funded using neighbourhood CIL.

·         The Committee notes the importance of minority communities, communities of interest and groups with protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010). The Committee asks that the needs of all communities and groups be given consideration in the future development of proposals.

·         The Committee recommends that thought should be given to the options for engaging as many residents as possible in decisions about neighbourhood CIL allocation. This might include the use of digital platforms, Commonplace and options for holding votes.

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