Levy fight just got tougher

At the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy in April 2010, the influential parliamentary environmental audit committee urged local authorities to use the proceeds to pay for green elements such as parks, in recognition of their critical role in climate-change adaptation.

Kate Lowe - Image HW
Kate Lowe - Image HW

It was, we noted at the time, one small ray of hope on a gloomy horizon for urban landscapes. In 2011, that hope came under threat thanks to the proposed widening of the remit of the levy, which was originally devised to fund vitally needed infrastructure such as landscaping and green spaces.

We warned that while this might be good news for cash-strapped councils, it would be yet another disaster for urban green space, which after decades of financial neglect was now bearing the brunt of the heaviest public spending cuts in living memory. Since then, a consultation on handing the levy over to fund affordable housing has come and gone and the latest word from the Department for Communities & Local Government on the issue is that it is "not proposing to make this change at the present time".

Now the Government has added again to the competition for these vital funds thanks to what has come to be known as "Boles' bung" - the promise of planning minister Nick Boles of 15-25 per cent of any funds raised via the levy to communities that accept development, to spend on what they want.

No one understands better the need to drive forward desperately needed housing development than those in the professional landscape community who have been hit so hard by the sector's collapse. But adding to the pressure on the levy, which is the only public-sector funding show in town for vital landscaping and parks, really is no solution at all.

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