West Felton risks losing £325,000 CIL Local Funds to Oswestry

At our Last Parish Council meeting, during the report from our Shropshire Councillor, Steve Charmley, announced that there was £12m unspent in the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) ‘Local Fund’ pot and that they wanted to move this into the ‘Strategic’ pot because they didn’t have enough money to do the things they wanted to do. CIL wasn’t on the agenda itself so there wasn’t any discussion about the implications of this.

The implications for West Felton parish are very serious indeed and need to be strongly resisted. West Felton stands to lose over £325,000 from the parish’s Local Fund pot if this plan is implemented. That amounts to £550 per household. West Felton Parish Council has earned CIL money by virtue of having the new houses in the village. But more on that in a minute.

Firstly, some background to CIL

In my previous post, I highlighted that Shropshire Council’s cabinet has decided that West Felton is to have 130 more houses (45% more compared to 2011) during the plan period of 2016 to 2036. Some of those already have permission but have yet to be built. The last time parishioners were asked what housing they wanted for the 2013/14 Parish Plan 89% said they wanted to remain as ‘Open Countryside’. With the minority of the remaining 11% wanting the Parish to become a ‘Community Hub’. Shropshire Council has opted for ‘High’ housing growth and now that West Felton is a ‘Community Hub’ we will have to have our share of that growth. Until such time as I see evidence that the Parish has changed its view from 4 years ago, I will oppose any such growth. The Parish Council and Shropshire Council will be undertaking a new housing needs survey in the New Year.

David Walker, a Civil Engineering Sureyor, at one of the many unplanned housing sites.
David Walker, a Civil Engineering Surveyor, by the new houses being built on Ralf’s Drive, West Felton.

One of the upsides for local communities that have new houses is Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). CIL is a planning charge, introduced by the Planning Act 2008 which came into force in 2010. CIL is a tool for local authorities in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area. It is designed to help communities buy into having development when they can see the benefits of CIL for their community. Its aim is also to make the planning system “fairer, faster and more certain and transparent” for developers as they can predict the level of CIL before applying for planning permission. The old S106 system was determined after a site was applied for, making it difficult for developers to know how much it was going to be. CIL is calculated on the square meterage of a new house (£80 per square metre) built in West Felton. The extra houses in the Local Plan update for 2016-2036 will mean the amounts currently in the CIL pots will increase in value.

According to the Planning Act 2008 and Shirehall’s Place Plan Resource Pack there are 3 flavours of CIL:

Neighbourhood Fund

The Neighbourhood Fund is within the control of West Felton Parish Council and currently stands at about £67,000*. Defined as a ‘meaningful proportion’ of the levy. It can be spent on infrastructure projects.

Local Fund

The Local Fund is distributed by Shropshire Council in accordance with the code of practice (page 14). It currently just over £325,000. After the Neighbourhood fund is taken out, 90% of Shropshire Council’s portion is the Local Fund. “The Local Fund is for infrastructure priorities in the settlements within which the development has taken place within”.

Strategic Fund

The Strategic Fund is also distributed by Shropshire Council in accordance with the code of practice. After the Neighbourhood fund is taken out, 10% of Shropshire Council’s portion is the Strategic Fund. “Some infrastructure is vital to the delivery of Shropshire’s development strategy. This infrastructure has a strategic rather than a local focus, benefitting Shropshire as a whole. It is important that some monies (up to 10%) are used to meet these strategic requirements.”

The upshot… It isn’t fair on West Felton.

Transferring £325,000 of West Felton parish’s ‘Local Fund’ out of the parish and into Oswestry isn’t fair on any level. To understand just how unjust it is and how disproportionately West Felton would be hit by losing the CIL Local pot of money have a look at these charts:

CIL Local Fund: Top 20 parish areas in cash terms
CIL Local Fund: Top 20 parish areas in cash terms

Of the 165 parish areas in Shropshire West Felton (coloured in red) is the 43rd largest. Yet we have the 8th largest pot of CIL money. If we hadn’t have had the houses we didn’t want we would have been way down the list. There are 60 parish areas with zero Local Fund because they haven’t had any houses. To further put that into context look at the company we are keeping at the top. We have a bigger pot than Bridgnorth Town Council!! Above us are 4 town councils which you might expect, as well as 3 other parish councils – Baschurch, Hadnal and Oswestry Rural. 4 parish councils with a combined population in the 2011 census of 7,695 people have a Local Fund worth £1.4 million or a 10th of the whole CIL Local Fund for Shropshire. It is easy to see where houses have landed disproportionately. Shifnal was also punished by Shropshire Council’s policy failure.

CIL Local Fund: Top 20 parish areas per capita
CIL Local Fund: Top 20 parish areas per capita

Let’s put the pots into scale relative to population size, after all, Shrewsbury is a lot bigger than West Felton. Here is the distribution of the Local fund pots based on the number of people in each parish. Again West Felton is coloured red. West Felton now has the 7th largest pot of CIL Local per person – £220.37 per person or £560.40 per household. There were 580 households in 2011. Of the parish areas above us (Hadnal, Montford Bridge, Norton in Hales, Sutton upon Tern, Shifnal and Baschurch) only 1 is a town council. This list clearly shows where houses have been disproportionately allowed by the poor policy vacuum.

This is why the move by Shirehall should be opposed in the strongest terms.

It isn’t fair on small parishes that have had new housing.

On a superficial level, it might seem sensible if the 90% / 10% split is adjusted. However, it takes no account of where the need for infrastructure is now needed thanks to bad planning on the part of Shropshire Council. Retrospectively trying to claw money back because the houses were built in the wrong places is the wrong move. It is Shropshire Council’s fault. Penalising villages twice over by taking the Local fund money away is totally unjust.

West Felton has had houses outside of the adopted planning policy framework. This has placed an unplanned for and an unfair burned on the infrastructure of the village.

West Felton Parish Council has earned CIL money by virtue of having the new houses in the Village that it didn’t want. Moving the pot is a slap in the face for the residents of West Felton. It adds insult to injury. We will have had the pain of the new houses without the infrastructure gain.

I sent a question to Shirehall for Shropshire Council’s cabinet to consider, as I couldn’t get there in person. I asked the cabinet:

“Many areas are concerned about the proposed changes to the Local CIL pot and the implication for moving the attributed money from parishes to the Place Plan Centre. This is fine where the place plan centre is the natural hub for the surrounding parishes for things like economic development infrastructure. However, for infrastructure associated with other areas of infrastructure need at a strategic and local level don’t neatly fall into place plan areas.
“Take West Felton Parish Council which is 43rd in terms of the parish/town population. Yet the Local pot is the 7th largest per capita. The parish also has the 8th largest local pot in cash terms at over £325,000. If the local pot is used for infrastructure of say an educational nature then for West Felton the Secondary school catchment is to the Corbet school in Baschurch. Baschurch has also has had new housing development and their local pot stands at nearly £653,000. A combined £977,872.26. West Felton has its own employment site at Rednal which needs investment or we could need improved access for HGVs to ABP in Hordley and West Felton.
“Arguably the place plan areas are too big and don’t tie up to the Local Joint Committee areas.
“Will the cabinet alter their proposed policy to give the local pot to local joint committee areas rather than place plan areas or will they consider altering the ratio of allocation from 90/10 to 70/30 in favour of local places that have had the development.
“West Felton like other areas has felt the pain of unwanted houses through the council’s policy vacuum and lack of planning control. We have felt the pain so we should feel the gain.”

Many parishes are angry with Shropshire Council’ handling of CIL

St Martin’s Parish Council have written to the Shropshire Association of Local Councils (SALC) to express a similar desire for the Local Joint Committees to have the Local Fund. CIL has been discussed by the Town & Parish forum on more than one occasion. Len Sambrook, Chairman of Childs Ercall Parish Council, circulated a list to SALC member councils at the end of October

At short notice, I attended the SALC AGM last Friday (9th Nov) in Telford to support the following motion from Childs Ercall Parish council and Woore Parish Council:

“That Shropshire Council be formally requested by SALC to take no steps towards any amendment to the present arrangements in relation to the distribution of the Community Infrastructure Levy Local Fund without formal consultation with Shropshire’s Parish and Town Councils”

Speaking to the motion Len Sambrook told the meeting that many councils had submitted expressions of interest in the CIL Local fund only to be turned down by Shropshire Council because ‘the money was going to CIL strategic instead or simply delaying the applications.’

On Tuesday at West Felton’s next parish council meeting, I will ask the members to support sending a similar letter to SALC and Shirehall. I am livid with what Shirehall are up to. I will also ask them to set up a small task and finish group to progress CIL with some urgency.


Definitions:

Open Countryside is defined as the area outside of any settlement with a defined settlement boundary. Where only development that is essential for the purposes of agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation, public infrastructure, essential works undertaken by public service authorities or statutory undertakers, or for other uses appropriate to a rural area will be permitted.

Community Cluster is a group of settlements without a development boundary which shares facilities and is likely to have at least a partial reliance upon other settlements to meet certain day-to-day needs.

Community Hub is generally considered to offer

sufficient services and facilities to meet the day-to-day needs of their resident

communities. They have a development boundary.

Place Plan Centre a settlement that serves the settlement’s resident communities, provide major employment and services to hubs and their surrounding rural hinterlands

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