The DLUHC is promoting three government-backed schemes to revitalize High Streets – the most significant for Markets being the Community Infrastructure Levy. CIL is already in place and proposals for ‘High Street Rental Auctions’ and ‘High Street Accelerators’ are pending.

 

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 empowered County and Unitary Councils to charge a levy when a planning consent is granted, with a share of the proceeds (typically 15%) passed down to lower tier Councils. The intention is to replace unwieldy S.106 agreements attached to consents with a mandatory levy applied across all developments to fund infrastructure for schools and transport etc. All forms of development including changes of use are liable but a ‘Charging Authority’ has a get-out clause for how it is levied. A zero rate can be set for projects delivering a net benefit to the Community e.g. a Market development which creates employment and supports local producers.

 

LMM-CalculatorFair enough – it’s not unreasonable to expect developments to contribute to the infrastructure they require. But Council-owned Market developments should become the recipient of and not a donor to CIL. Markets are the starting point for SME businesses which grow to fill empty High Street shops and support the local economy. Ask Mary Portas and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Applying CIL funds to support Market projects is more than justifiable.

 

But there are Markets and there are MARKETS. Modernising a Council-owned Market Hall to revitalise a Town centre is admirable but poses the dilemma of whether privately-owned venues e.g. a Carboot sale or a Market Hall which morphs into a leisure-based Food & Beverage destination deserve support. Do F&B developments which replace a Market Hall Butcher and Greengrocer really serve Dan and Doris and the community? Maybe the funding should be focussed on supporting SME businesses instead?

 

The Act does contain exemptions e.g. no levy on Social Housing or ‘Self-builders’ who develop for their own occupation – but an application for exemption needs to be lodged before development work commences. Nor does CIL replace contributions demanded by private infrastructure providers e.g. Water Companies needing to upgrade their treatment works. Theory says such investment should be borne by Customer supply charges but the scale of investment needed to meet discharge quality standards is enormous. The Water Industry Act 1991 enables them to demand contributions.

 

The DLUHC’s proposed ‘High Street Rental Auctions’ pilot scheme is intended to enable Councils to force the auction of leases for High Street Shops standing empty for more than a year. The leases can be for up to 5 years and auctioned without a reserve price but who picks up the bill for refurbishment and whether low rents granted will be supported by Small Business Rates Relief is unclear. DLUHC is also inviting bids for 10 High Streets for another pilot scheme – the ‘High Street Accelerators programme’ to create ‘Green Community space’ from a £5m fund. The response to these pilots is intended to guide policy for the DLUHC’s proposed £1.5 billion Long-Term Plan for Towns.

 

Of the three initiatives CIL offers a real opportunity to kickstart a Market project.

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