CIL Infrastructure Funding Statements – Clarifying the Opaque

New planning guidance was published by the Government on Sunday 1 September regarding the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in light of recent amendments made to the CIL Regulations. One of the key changes made is the revocation of Regulation 123 (see here for our recent blog on this), which provided that a development could not be required to pay a planning contribution in relation to infrastructure where CIL had been identified as responsible for funding its delivery, and restricted the pooling of funds towards specific pieces of infrastructure. In connection with this amendment, which allows authorities to choose to use funding from different sources towards the same infrastructure, a new requirement has been inserted into the CIL Regulations requiring charging authorities to publish an “infrastructure funding statement”.

The infrastructure funding statements are required to set out the infrastructure projects or types of infrastructure that the authority intends to fund, either wholly or partly, by the levy or planning obligations, though this will not dictate how funds must be spent and in turn collected. These statements will become increasingly important for developers who wish to understand what the appropriate level of planning obligations payable in relation to a development is, and in particular the types of planning obligations that should properly be payable in relation to that development based on what is outlined in the statement and what should properly be funded by the CIL it pays. Importantly, it is possible for an infrastructure funding statement to identify that an item of infrastructure may be funded by both CIL and by planning obligations.

The infrastructure funding statements are non-binding and thus will likely result in a lot of negotiation regarding the types of planning obligations that should be payable before a developer can fully understand the quantum of the applicable planning obligations/CIL. This will make assessing the viability of a development, and in particular determining the land value for a site following updates to viability guidance and approach over the last 18 months more strictly requiring land values to be calculated taking planning obligations/CIL into account, even more difficult.

However, the immediate problem would appear to be that the first infrastructure funding statements are not required to be published until 31 December 2020, so until then what the split should be between planning obligations/CIL will be opaque, with Regulation 122 likely to be increasingly relied upon (by all parties) to determine when a planning obligation is appropriate. Further, whilst an authority “must” publish an infrastructure funding statement, there is no penalty included in the CIL Regulations for not doing so.

The potential positive impact of the changes is that it will allow a developer and the authority more freedom to confirm the infrastructure to be funded by the overall contribution to be made in connection with the development, and give authorities more freedom to direct funds to immediate infrastructure needs to unlock sites and provide a greater certainty of delivery. However, taking into account one of the main complaints regarding CIL was the lack of delivery of infrastructure using CIL monies, which is likely as a result of issues beyond the effect of the now revoked Regulation 123, it’s very much a “watch this space” to see if those potential positives can be realised.

Author: Martyn Jarvis, senior associate, planning, London

Martyn Jarvis
Martyn Jarvis
Senior associate, planning and environment, London
+44 20 7466 2680
Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and head of UK planning practice, London
+44 20 7466 2461

CIL reform: What the dickens!

“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.

Author: Matthew White, partner and head of UK planning practice, London

For further information please contact:

Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and head of UK planning practice, London
+44 20 7466 2461

Agreements with Registered Providers: 5 Top Tips

For developers bringing forward any residential development, the affordable housing package will be one of the most important elements of ensuring a scheme actually gets consent – particularly in the current political and policy environment. But while it is easy to focus only on those crucial headlines – number of units, tenure, and size – it is important to keep an eye on what comes after planning permission. Most of the time, this will mean doing a deal with a registered provider, which will have its own preferences as to how the deal should be structured and how the units will be managed. Here are our top 5 points for developers to be aware of.

1. Think carefully about section 106 restrictions …

One of the top priorities of the local planning authority will be to ensure that the affordable housing package is adequately secured in a section 106 agreement. While every agreement is different, they all generally contain two key things.

First, a requirement to build the affordable housing units and sell the freehold or a lease (usually at least 125 years) to a registered provider. This will typically be drafted in the form of what is known as a “Grampian” restriction: a requirement to do something (ie build and sell affordable housing units) before you do something else (ie occupy your valuable market housing).

Second, there will be a restriction stating that the units to be provided as affordable housing cannot be occupied for anything other than the tenure set out in the agreement.

How these provisions are drafted is hugely important. An improperly drafted Grampian restriction, or one which doesn’t take into account the circumstances and programme of the scheme, could unreasonably prevent or delay the most valuable parts of the development from being occupied – therefore impacting on sales, funding and, ultimately, viability.

2. … and then make sure you pass them down

If the section 106 agreement obliges you as the developer to do something in relation to affordable housing – eg to maintain the housing in a particular tenure, or to keep the service charge low – you will want to pass this obligation down to the registered provider. The transaction documents should therefore be back to back with the section 106 so nothing falls through the gaps.

This will involve an analysis of whether it is appropriate for you as developer or the registered provider, or both parties, to fulfil the relevant obligations taking account of the respective land interests and rights.

You will need to pay particular attention to what could go wrong to prevent any restriction being lifted on the market homes – like, what would happen if the registered provider you are selling to goes insolvent, or ceases to be recognised as a registered provider? All these issues will need to be thought about and catered for in the transaction documents.

3. Think carefully about where the affordable units sit within the estate management structure

The registered provider’s preference will typically be to take all of the affordable units in a single transfer or a single block lease. A developer may prefer to retain control over the common areas within the block. This will ensure the provision of services and recovery of service charge is consistent across the estate (but see point 4 below). If the registered provider accepts that approach, it may seek greater control over the management company responsible for the block (eg through shares in the management company and voting rights) but whether this is acceptable to a developer will depend on the number of units and their configuration within the block.

4. Test whether the estate service charge works for the affordable units

The registered provider will be very keen to ensure that the service charge for the affordable units is as low as possible – particularly given that some tenures involve rent caps that are inclusive of service charge (there may also be specific covenants regarding service charge within the section 106 agreement). In the service charge provisions in the lease, the registered provider will seek to reduce the developer’s discretion as to which services are provided and will want wide consultation rights. Depending on the nature of the development, the registered provider may want certain non-essential service charge items excluded (for example the costs of concierge services or an on-site gym), but please note that this may cause reputational issues for the developer as highlighted in recent news articles where affordable tenants have not been able to utilise all of the amenities provided at new development sites.

5. Think about utility supplies to affordable units

It is likely that a registered provider will require that its tenants enter into direct supply agreements with the utilities providers rather than have utilities charged through the service charge (which would put the credit risk on the registered provider as the direct tenant of the developer). Again, you will need to think through carefully how utility services are procured and managed for the affordable units and how this ties in with utility arrangements for the wider estate.

In summary there are lots of issues to be thought through when dealing with a registered provider and reaching agreement with a registered provider on the disposal of the affordable units will require careful consideration. As such, we recommend that solicitors are instructed at an early stage to ensure that the transaction documents deal with the requirements of the section 106 agreement and are consistent with the developer’s plans for the remainder of the estate.

For further information please contact:

David Evans
David Evans
Senior Associate, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 7480
Annika Holden
Annika Holden
Associate (Australia), Planning, London
+44 20 7466 2882

Julian Pollock
Julian Pollock
Partner, Real Estate, London
+44 20 7466 2682
Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and Head of UK planning practice, London
+44 20 7466 2461

 

Real Estate EP5: The future of planning – Matthew White and Ghislaine Halpenny in conversation

British Property Federation (BPF) director of strategy and external affairs, Ghislaine Halpenny, sits down with Matthew White, partner and head of UK planning, to discuss planning, its ever-changing nature and the direction it is taking.

 

Also published on the BPF soundcloud for the BPF Futures network, a networking and development group for junior professionals working in all areas of UK real estate.

For further information please contact:

Matthew White
Matthew White
Partner and Head of UK planning, London
+44 20 7466 2461