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Institution of Civil Engineers

07 Jun 2011 09:06:34

Localism Bill must protect local infrastructure funding – engineers

Localism Bill must protect local infrastructure funding – engineers

Tuesday 7th June: The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has warned that revisions to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in the Localism Bill could jeopardise the delivery of important sub-national infrastructure such as transport and waste systems.

In conjunction with the Bill's second reading in the Lords today (Tuesday 7th June) the leading engineering body has published an updated briefing raising concerns about changes to the levy, which was originally intended to secure developer contributions towards the provision and improvement of local infrastructure.

ICE is primarily concerned by revisions (clauses 99–100) that mean in future the levy could be used for other purposes, including revenue funding for infrastructure – including maintenance and upkeep, and allowing for the income to be passed to third parties such as community groups. Government is also considering the possibility of allowing CIL to be spent on affordable housing.

Rt Hon Greg Clarke MP, Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government has previously said that this would allow a 'meaningful proportion' of the CIL to go directly to the neighbourhood in which it was raised, but ICE says this could lead to very local priorities overriding the need for essential infrastructure, such as transport networks, that would benefit a wider section of society.

It warns that with local authorities facing reduced budgets, the CIL will become an increasingly important mechanism for funding new infrastructure and says that opening it up for other, albeit important, purposes would undermine its primary function.

Chair of the ICE's localism panel Geoff French said, "Due to a history of under-investment many of our local networks are in urgent need of upgrading or replacement. It has been estimated that the CIL could raise around £1bn per year in future (according to DCLG in their May 9th report "Community Infrastructure Levy: an overview"), and we strongly believe this important funding stream must be protected solely for the provision of essential infrastructure that underpins economic growth, both locally and nationally."

ICE has previously called for strengthening and clarity of the Duty to Cooperate clause to ensure that 'larger than local' infrastructure was planned and delivered properly. An amended clause was produced at Report stage that addressed these issues.

ICE's latest briefing on the Localism Bill has been sent to Lords and MPs as well as ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government, to ensure the issue of the CIL is understood.

French added, "ICE is very pleased that government recognised our initial concerns about the 'Duty to Cooperate' and we hope that it will now also take the important issue of the CIL into consideration as the Bill progresses through Parliament."

ICE also remains concerned about the introduction of local referendums, which could pose questions for infrastructure development if organised community groups are able to oppose certain types developments even before planning proposals have been made.

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