Planning minister says move will stop opposition to greenfield development

Local councils will be forced to pass a quarter of the revenues they receive from developer under the Community Infrastructure Levy to local community groups, planning minister Nick Boles has said.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange Boles, a former head of the right-leaning think tank, said 25% of CIL revenues will have to be directed to neighbourhood or parish councils, where they exist.

But he said the 25% level would only apply to neighbourhoods that have drawn up a neighbourhood development plan and secured the consent of local people in a referendum.

Neighbourhoods without a neighbourhood development plan but where the levy is still charged will still receive a capped 15% share of the levy revenue arising from development in their area, Boles said.

Boles said the cash boost will be paid directly to parish and town councils and can be used to back the community’s priorities, for example to re-roof a village hall, refurbish a municipal pool or take over a community pub.

Boles said communities without a parish or town council will still benefit from the incentive, with the local planning authority retaining it and spending it in accordance with the wishes of the community.

The government consulted on the duty to pass a “meaningful proportion” of CIL revenues to neighbourhoods in October 2011, asking respondents to suggest what that level should be.

The CIL, which has come into force over the last year, allows councils to charge housebuilders and developers a charge based on the number of homes or square feet of commercial space they develop in order to pay for local infrastructure.

Boles also made his strongest statements yet arguing that greenfield land will have to be built on in order for the UK to construct the houses it needs, and confirmed plans to strip councils of planning power if they fail to make decisions.

He said: “I am afraid that we have a simple choice. We can decide to ignore the misery of young families forced to grow up in tiny flats with no outside space.

“We can pass by on the other side while working men and women in their twenties and thirties have to live with their parents or share bedrooms with friends.

“We can turn a blind eye while Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a property-owning democracy shrivels. And shrug our shoulders as home ownership reverts to what it was in the 19th Century: a privilege, the exclusive preserve of people with large incomes or wealthy parents.

“But I don’t believe that anyone really wants to go down this road. Certainly not any Conservative.

“If we believe in anything, we believe in the power of home ownership to motivate people to work hard, raise strong families and build healthy communities, to put down roots, take responsibility for their surroundings and look out for their neighbours.

“There is only one choice for a Conservative. To accept that we are going to have to build on previously undeveloped land. But, to resolve that we will make these decisions locally, and that we will build beautiful places like we used to. Like they’ve done in the last few years with strong local support on a greenfield site at Newhall in Harlow. That way England can remain the green and pleasant land we all love.”