To consider the attached report.
4.1 Ben Watts, Outcome Manager, presented this item. The report was taken as read and the following points were highlighted:
· GCC was responsible for delivering specific infrastructure and services and ensuring new developments did not adversely impact upon the capacity of existing services or the ability to deliver them.
· Many planning applications / permissions were therefore subject to developer contributions in the form of planning obligations. These could be via planning agreements (S106 Agreements) considered alongside Highways Contributions S278 and CIL.
· CIL was applied on a formulate basis across a CIL charging area i.e. a district planning area, which was different to the application of S106 which was specific to planning areas.
· Whilst CIL and S106 could run alongside each other, there could not be a situation where developers paid twice for the same infrastructure.
· As GCC was only a consultee to the planning process, officers were able to provide comment on the financial requirements for infrastructure but it was the role of Local Planning Authority (LPA) to decide. They were under no obligation to agree with GCC’s consultation response and request the monies.
· This had become a particular concern for GCC in its role as Education Authority. To date no CIL money had been allocated from LPAs for education provision.
· The introduction of CIL had also led to significantly reduced or declined S106 contributions. This meant GCC had lost millions of pounds in developer contributions in recent years.
· Finally, members were informed of a recent criticism of the methodology GCC used for calculating developer contributions for a planning application at Coombe Hill. A detailed review was currently underway on this ruling and due to conclude in 2022.
4.1 Several members queried why it was felt the CIL monies had not been forthcoming, particularly in relation to education.
4.2 It was advised that firstly, there was an overall issue with the amount of money raised initially. It was not enough to cover the costs to begin with, let alone after 30% was taken for admin and neighbourhood plan charges. There were also issues of viability, Gloucestershire was an expensive place to develop and therefore required a high level of CIL monies to provide the necessary infrastructure. It was up to the LPA’s Planning Committee to make decisions on the application and it was felt there may be other more pressing financial priorities, leaving CIL as a non-viable charge to add on top of the other costs charged to the developers. Finally the two tier system of local government in Gloucestershire meant the county council did not have a voice or a role in the decision making process and could only provide comment.
4.3 It was questioned whether councils should be looking at other ways to raise the money for education if this avenue was clearly failing, for example, through council tax.
4.4 Officers advised that the council did receive a level of funding from Government for education places, but this was in terms of natural growth need, rather than additional need required due to the new developments. The idea behind the charge schemes was for the developer to fill the gap and pay for impacts directly linked to their development. Council tax payments went towards the ongoing revenue costs of education and CIL/S106 should be covering the upfront capital costs of providing the place to begin with.
4.5 A member questioned if the charging regulations used by the LPA applied when the county council acts as planning authority such as for a new school.
ACTION: COLIN CHICK/BEN WATTS
4.6 In relation to library contributions it was queried why the contributions were often used for revenue purchases (new books) and how members could keep track of the amounts and where they were spent.
4.7 Members were advised that it was a requirement of all LPA’s to publish annual statements detailing contributions and where they were used, noting however this was a year in arrears. In terms of what they were spent on, the contributions went into a library pool and justifiable charges were then made. Apparent revenue spends would sometimes qualify due to the need to expand library resources because of population increases.
4.8 Section 5.5 of the report notified members of a challenge the council had received on the approach towards requesting education contributions for a particular development at Coombe Hill. An immediate interim position had been published, taking the challenge into account and outlining the approach that would be followed in the short term.
4.9 In addition, a more detailed review of the methodology was underway and expected to conclude in 2022. Whilst the council would remain exposed to the reduced charges until the review had concluded, it gave a chance to consult industry experts to make sure the revised dataset was robust, whilst also working with districts to make sure they appreciated and understood the new approach in a hope to avoid ongoing conflicts.
4.10 Members were incredibly concerned that 4.3 of the report stated no CIL contributions had been paid to the county council from 5 of the 6 district councils, and at what point the monies had been withheld.
4.11 Officers advised they had tried for over a year to set up a joint study with the districts but had faced difficulty in agreeing how this would be funded. Eventually the county offered to pay for the study alone in order to avoid anymore delay. Noting the difficulty faced locally, it was agreed that this would need a lead nationally from MHCLG. Officers had now approached and were working with the County Council Network to use combined pressure to make a case to Government. It was added discussions had started nationally on introducing a new system for infrastructure charging but this would likely not be implemented in the near future.
4.12 In concluding this item, the Committee requested that their serious concern and frustration at the current situation was sent in writing to the lead Cabinet Member, and to show their support for discussions to be had at officer and member level to find a resolution.