Greenwich collect least owed income from developers in London

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.

Woolwich blocks

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.

Woolwich towers

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.

GMV blocks

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.

History

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.

S106 pooled in Southwark

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.

Section 106

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.

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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.

£100,000 spent on TV over two years’ worth of funding

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.

Abbey Wood estate. No money to improve area while a big screen TV gains most public realm funding.

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.

Crossrail

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.

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

8 thoughts on “Greenwich collect least owed income from developers in London

  • June 28, 2021 at 5:00 pm
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    You have been addressing this for years on your site, but have you ever approached national newspapers or perhaps the police about this?

    Something feels wrong here, and a public investigation is necessary! Who knows where all this money is going at the moment? It can’t be evidenced at all, so it might be going to some very corrupt people…. for years!

    Reply
  • June 28, 2021 at 5:16 pm
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    A vote for Labour is a vote to have money taken our your pocket. Doesn’t matter if you’re on benefits or wealthy, money that could be going to your area is being snatched from you, often by councillors who will go on to join a developer’s board.

    What’s the alternative? Personally I’d prefer to see more of the local parties, such as that one in Plumstead.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2021 at 6:31 pm
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    I tried my best during the recent elections, but my single vote wasn’t enough to make a difference….

    I feel some more media attention might help to make a start with something? The situation needs to change in Greenwhich, decisions in this boroughare clearly not taken for the greater good. (very low level of social houses, crumbling of existing estates, where are the santander bikes, Silvertown tunnel, and I could go on and on…..)

    Reply
  • June 28, 2021 at 7:34 pm
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    I cannot wrap my head around that figure. Lower income than Bexley and Richmond? Havering? Outer Tory boroughs with far less development year on year?

    This is weird. Really weird.

    The Section 106 collection data is very odd too. There’s so many apparent holes in those figures.

    Reply
  • June 28, 2021 at 7:59 pm
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    Yet the tory opposition are silent on this in Greenwich, and Labour councils across London are collecting far more owed income and spending money is various areas that Greenwich appear happy to ignore like deprived estates.

    And no allegations of corruption please without evidence.

    Reply
  • June 29, 2021 at 1:34 am
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    The information in the article is so funny I could cry! BRG is a ridiculous place! The Burrough receives the least amount of money from Developers, yet Developers do whatever they want! (Sorry we can’t afford to allocate ANY flats for Social Tennants because it’s not financially feasible!)
    The statement regarding GLLaB is exactly as I expected, and all I can say is: SLUSH FUND! The only purpose I can see for this Organisation is to give jobs to the people who work there! I know of NO ONE who has ever gained employment through them directly!
    This entire article hurts! I wish these truths could be investigated by someone that could set things right.

    Reply
  • June 29, 2021 at 10:21 am
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    Evidence to the contrary would need to be produced by the borough, if things are in order then this should be an easy task right?

    I have followed your blog for quite a while, and noticed you have raised many questions on getting more information from the council. Questions which are consistently ignored, and when an answer is produced this is never satisfactory.
    To me this strongly feels like a strategy to keep information from going places they don’t want it to go.

    So once again I raise the question, have you ever approached any authorities or national media about this? I feel there could be quite a lot to uncover if people would start to look into the books over the last few decades….

    Reply
  • July 1, 2021 at 9:19 am
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    I would invite you all to ask M.Pennycook what he thinks about those figures….

    Reply

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