A recent TfL board meeting revealed something unexpected in terms of income paid by developers to local authorities to mitigate impacts of development and to improve local services.
Greenwich were bottom of all London authorities in 2019/20 for collecting income despite being in the top five for new housing developments across London for many years.
Papers for a TfL finance meeting held on 23rd June state: “There is substantial variation across London in the level of annual BCIL receipts generated. For example, Westminster (£36.9m), Wandsworth (£32m), Brent (£26.5m) and Tower Hamlets (£23.3m) are producing significant annual BCIL (Borough Community Infrastructure Levy) receipts while in other boroughs such as Greenwich (£1.3m) and Richmond (£2m) the amounts are much lower.
£1.3 million seems an extremely low amount given levels of building are very high and have been for many years.
Off I went to find out details from Greenwich themselves and sure enough the amount collected is extremely low by London standards. It confirmed just £1.3 million.
I then checked out neighbouring Lewisham’s equivalent document. It is far more comprehensive. It shows they collected £5.8 million in CIL payments.
Then we move to Bexley’s report. They’ve seen far less development each year over the past decade. Yet they received £2,710,167.
All quite strange. If we look at government figures on housebuilding we see Greenwich top both of those boroughs comfortably and have for many years.
Greenwich borough saw 1,639 homes in 2019/20. Lewisham 1,054 and Bexley just 472. And that’s a pattern seen every year for the previous decade.
CIL was introduced in 2015, so by 2019/20 should be seeing more than £1.3 million and being bottom in London. It’s all quite odd.
In five years they’ve collected just £8,727,087, which is far less than many boroughs collected in just a single year. Tower Hamlets with £23.3m in one year alone.
CIL income split
It should be highlighted that Community Infrastructure Levy income from new development is split two ways, with part being Borough CIL with a council collecting the bulk of income (eg for housing in Greenwich it’s £70 per square metre or £40 depending on location for residential development, and £100 for hotels) with the other being the Mayoral CIL element at £25 per square metre in Greenwich. The Mayoral CIL varies by borough.
Greenwich have had the opportunity to increase borough CIL income as the mayor previously agreed to lower the Mayoral CIL share from £35 per square metre to £25 per square metre for development in Greenwich from 2019/20. No other London borough was given this reduction.
Greenwich could have subsequently increased their share by £10 per square metre to developers – with no real impact to housebuilders or other developers. They have not done so.
There’s a history with Greenwich and developer payments which doesn’t paint the authority in a great light.
Elected councillors have in the past stated income cannot be spent on certain projects – despite that being incorrect. Evidence from other boroughs contradicted their statements – and when presented to councillors there is no response.
The Woolwich TV is a prime example. With public spaces and estates ignored borough wide, when questioned it was stated S106 could only be spent in immediate vicinity of a development thus deprived estates couldn’t see improvements – which isn’t true.
Yet a big TV somehow gets £100,000 when it’s not directly next to new development bringing S106.
Other authorities also include how and where developer income should be spent in public planning meetings permitting scrutiny. Greenwich Council never do this as a specific item on meeting agendas.
S106 were a precursor to CIL and still apply to some degree.
Another long standing issue with Greenwich is a continual failure to uploading Section 106 agreements with developers onto their planning portal for many years – in contrast to doing so in a timely fashion as seen in many other authorities across London.
Help me bring you news and events not always covered elsewhere. Support is invaluable, and you can make a one off payment or become a regular supporter through Paypal.
You can also contribute via my Patreon account.
Secrecy is a continual problem with S106 and Greenwich Council. They never routinely discussed or uploaded details to their website on S106 revenue or spending until it became a legal requirement – again in contrast to most authorities.
Perhaps the latest report shows why, given very low amounts allocated to health, for example.
In the financial year 2019/20 just £157,716 was spent on health. Yet their employment scheme GLLaB saw almost 10 times as much at £1,362,077.
That’s a vast discrepancy. The NHS and local CCG have recently been stating in response to a number of planning applications that they are receiving insufficient funds from Section 106 agreements.
Just £76,421 was spent on improving public spaces, with the vast majority going on the Woolwich big screen TV.
And it’s not as though borough CIL is picking up the slack now, as not only are Greenwich seeing little of it, they’re not spending any that isn’t a legal requirement.
By law 15 per cent must be spent on local projects and up to five per cent on administration costs. That’s all they are spending.
Oh, except £300,000 for their “Greenwich Digital Connectivity Strategy”. You may have noticed things like driverless cars running around for a bit. I do wonder if this is the next GLLaB which swallows funds to the detriment of health, estates, public transport, town centres and local shopping centres.
Greenwich are also supposed to pay off £15 million Woolwich station fit out by 2022/23. Yet they havn’t been paying anything from S106 income for two years and little from CIL so are far behind target according to the report:
It’s all very strange.
It all helps to explain why long forgotten parks, streets and shopping areas are in poor shape when Greenwich are collecting so little, and even when do collect (small amounts) many areas of the borough continue to be ignored as issues like healthcare and public realm work to encourage healthy living are of little apparent concern.