New levy is fairest way of charging developers

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The present system of levies on new building projects has been allowed to develop on an ad hoc basis, with figures arrived at during council negotiations with individual developers.

This is hardly satisfactory. Though there is nothing wrong with the notion that developers standing to profit from building should be expected to contribute to infrastructure costs and community facilities, there really should be a fixed system of charges so that everybody knows where they stand.

Such transparency would prevent any accusations of favouritism or cosy deals and accusations of permission being granted for certain schemes because of the financial incentive offered to the council.

That’s why we’re pleased to see that from April the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will be calculated based on floor space – £105 per square metre.

Brought in nationally in 2010, Portsmouth City Council is to become only the fourth local authority to receive approval to operate the scheme.

It simplifies matters and means that there is a level playing field for all developers, big or small. When they put together projects, they will be able to factor in exactly what they will have to pay as a levy. It’s there in black and white.

The managing director of Southsea-based Bernards Estate Agents, Jason Parker, has voiced his concern, saying the change could have a ‘potentially stifling effect on development’ and could lead to less social housing being built.

But Portsmouth South MP and city councillor Mike Hancock, who is head of planning, regeneration and economic development, insists that won’t happen. He thinks developers ‘will always argue they should pay less’.

We certainly hope that the new CIL will not deter developers because they are vital for our economy and to provide the extra houses we need.

The figures have to stack up, otherwise they won’t build.

But we still agree with the principle of a fixed levy. as the fairest way of determining payment.