Malcolm Scott Consultants has successfully slashed a London garden centre’s Community Infrastructure Levy by £83,000 in a landmark appeal for the sector.
Acting on behalf of a garden centre on the outskirts of London, the business appealed against a £96,000 CIL liability equating to £315 per sq m, a charge calculated based on high street rental value.
Chris Primett of MSC said: “Ever since the Community Infrastructure Levy was introduced in 2010, it has caused concerns to many garden centre owners looking to implement their planning consents.
“This tax is levied on certain types of approved new development, including retail development, and the general belief has been that the charge is a ‘fait accompli’ in that the rate applied cannot be challenged.”
The rate originally applied by the Planning Authority to the client’s approved development amounted to £315/m², including the Mayor of London’s charge, resulting in a CIL liability of £96,000.
Chris, who was tasked with submitting an Economic Viability Assessment on the centre’s behalf explained: “A high street retailer such as Tesco might not blink at such a charge, but with the planning conditions imposed by the Planning Authority on what the centre could sell meant that it simply wasn’t reflective of the centre’s rental value.”
MSC’s assessment demonstrated that the charge had been calculated based upon unrestricted A1 use high street and shopping centre rental values per sq metre, which were up to 12 times higher than the garden centre’s rental value.
Having negotiated with the Council, it was agreed that the retail restrictions had reduced the rental value of the centre in question and the appeal was accepted, with the rate being dropped to £45/m², resulting in a saving of £83,000.
Chris said that while he was delighted with the result, centres seeking to replicate the appeal should give careful consideration to the key restrictions that led to its success.
“We were extremely pleased with the outcome of this appeal – such high charges can present significant financial difficulties for garden centres, but it is worth noting that those sites with an unrestricted A1 use it will find it much more difficult to challenge the CIL rate.
“CIL regulations do allow relief on a very limited range of development proposals but it is down to each individual Council to set their own rules on such relief. Over a period of several years the CIL paid may even out against the enhanced sales achieved from a wider range of non-garden related products, but owners face the dilemma of continuing to sell a typical range of garden centre goods or accepting a higher development tax should they choose to expand their shop space.
“My advice to anyone wanting to challenge a CIL Liability Notice would be to lodge an appeal as soon as it is received and focus on the Economic Assessment case, but this success story does show that those centres with sales restrictions in place have a starting point,” he added.