Cheshire East housing levy plans criticised by parish councils

New development in Cheshire
Image caption Cheshire East Council has earmarked land for 36,000 new homes over the next 12 years

A council has been accused of "unfairly" allowing developers to avoid paying into a new fund for roads, schools and health services.

Cheshire East Council wants to exempt dozens of planned housing projects from a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

However, several parish councils have said the local authority has "missed an opportunity" to raise money for much-needed community facilities.

The authority said the new system would be "fairer" than the current set-up.

Local planning authorities were given the power to introduce CILs in 2010 to raise money from housing developers.

The funds have to be invested in local transport, education and health services.

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A government inspector has been appointed to review the way Cheshire East Council proposes to administer the scheme.

Under the CIL, a quarter of the money raised from each development has to be distributed to local parish councils.

'Strongly objects'

The BBC has learned that 15 of the 26 planned sites given exemption from the levy were owned or partially owned by Cheshire East Council.

Poynton's town council has said it is unhappy that two sites - owned by Cheshire East - were included in that list.

In a letter to the government's planning inspector, the council clerk Liz Osborn said the levy "should be applied equally to both the private and public sector so as not to favour one over the other".

Those developing "non-exempt" sites will have to pay up to £168 per sq m into the CIL.

Esther McVey, the Conservative MP for Tatton, has added her voice to the complaints.

In a letter to the inspector, she wrote that she took "issue with my constituents being asked to take developments that will impact on their daily lives, but not receive the proceeds of those developments on infrastructure projects that will mitigate some of that impact".

Where will developers escape the Community Infrastructure Levy?

  • £0 per sq m: Parts of Crewe, Macclesfield, Alsager, Congleton, Handforth, Middlewich, Nantwich, Sandbach, Audlem, Bunbury, Bollington, Chelford, Disley, Goostrey, Haslington, Holmes Chapel, Shavington and Wrenbury
  • £22 per sq m: Land around Crewe
  • £57 per sq m: Knutsford, Alderley Edge, Mobberley, Prestbury, Poynton and Wilmslow
  • £71 per sq m: Rural areas in the centre and south of Cheshire East
  • £168 per sq m: Rural areas in the north of Cheshire East

A second parish council, Handforth, told the inspector it "strongly objects" to the proposals, which would see it receive nothing from developers behind a planned village of 1,500 homes.

It had planned to use the levy's proceeds to refurbish a youth centre, extend a library and improve a park.

Parish councils in Willaston, Weston and Basford near Crewe said the plan represented "a missed opportunity to properly fund the social, economic and environmental infrastructure across the borough".

Cheshire East Council said it had decided not to make developers pay towards the levy on cheaper land or on sites which were "more costly to develop because they may involve demolition or site remediation".

Overall, it insisted the levy "would benefit a wide range of communities".

"We have had to evaluate what benefits the CIL will bring, but we are convinced that it will be a fairer system of funding [than is currently in place]", a spokesman said.

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