• Westminster CIL is formally agreed

Westminster City Council has agreed the amounts it will charge under the Community Infrastructure Levy, from May 2016.
The authority is one of the last to enact its CIL, but also one of the busiest boroughs with the potential to have the greatest impact on development in the capital, should the charging levels spook developers. It has, however, received significant feedback along the way, from interested parties such as the Westminster Property Association.
Westminster has settled on two types of charge, each banded into three levels. Commercial developments will trigger CIL once they increase floorspace in a redevelopment by more than 100 square metres of new gross internal floorspace. The price to be paid depends on location in the borough, with the level set at £200 per square metre in the prime zone, £150 in the core areas, north of Oxford Street and in the south of the borough, and £50 in the fringe zone north of Marylebone Road.
For residential development, CIL is triggered on any residential space. The zoning is differently arranged from the commercial zones, and set at a level of £550 per square metre in the prime area, £400 in the core area, and £200 in the fringe zones.
Across the rest of London, most boroughs now have CIL charging in place. Among those still working on the process is Ealing, which published its draft rates in mid 2015 and is now at the submission for examination stage; Enfield is about to adopt its approved charging schedule; while Kingston recently adopted their schedule.
In November, former BPF chief Liz Peace took the lead on a panel that will review the Community Infrastructure Levy, and its impact. Submissions to the government-sponsored review are now closed, with a report to ministers planned for March and April this year. Hopes are that the panel will find more positively than an early study, by Savills for the Home Builders Federation. That reported at the end of 2014, that “CIL is not meeting its objectives of making the planning system fairer, faster, more certain and transparent”.

LPA Perspective: Westminster has spend plenty of time on working out its CIL charging regime. Which means that plenty of people affected by it, should have commented on the consequences, and there is less likelihood of the law of unintended consequences applying. With any luck, nothing untoward will creep out of the woodwork.
The danger now is that the DCLG’s review will find reasons to start fiddling with a regime that is still finding its feet. Yes, there are clear consequences where adjacent local authorities feel the need to set substantially differing levels, and the market will vote with its feet, where restrictive levels apply. But those in the business of property and planning prefer steady state – however bad that may be – to constant change. At least with the former, you can plan investments that invariably take a good while to work through.

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