Broadland District Council offers support for neighbourhoods to maximise the impact of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding within their communities. While the opportunities are great, the challenges facing Parish Councils looking to deliver six-figure infrastructure projects might require some radical solutions. Broadland has 11 parish councils with an adopted neighbourhood plan and others who are currently working on one.
Dan Harris, Community Infrastructure Coordinator at Broadland District Council writes about the journeys their Parish Councils have been on and explores the support they offered to them.
There are interesting things going on in Broadland which lies to the north of Norwich.
In many small rural communities that haven’t seen radical change for generations there is something big on the horizon.
In 2008 proposals were submitted for a new eco-town containing over 5000 homes to adjoin the existing and relatively small community of Rackheath. Although the whole eco-town agenda has fallen away, the plan for large-scale development remains.
In Rackheath the prospect of CIL funds is met with both excitement and concern. Across Broadland District Council’s area, there are 46 Parish Councils receiving CIL funds including several parishes whose funds received run into six figures.
CIL, which stands for Community Infrastructure Levy, is a non-negotiable levy introduced by the government that allows local planning authorities to raise funds from developers and individuals towards new infrastructure such as schools, transport initiatives and leisure facilities that are needed to support growth. Broadland District Council introduced CIL in July 2013.
A percentage of this levy is received by Parish Councils to deliver projects that support growth. Parish Councils with an adopted Neighbourhood Plan receive 25% of the levy and those without will receive 15%.
So how do we embrace this massive opportunity for investment in our local communities and support a Parish Council to be ready to deliver infrastructure projects?
Broadland District Council has employed Community Infrastructure Coordinators to support Parish Councils on this journey. The local authority also offers loans from a Community Infrastructure Fund which is underwritten by future local CIL receipts.
Although Rackheath is set to receive a lot of money from CIL contributions, this money doesn’t arrive in one payment and this can make the cash flow for infrastructure projects challenging. In 2016 Old Catton Parish Council received a loan of £59k to make improvements to Catton Park and Rackheath plan to do the same to capitalise on future CIL funds to finance improvements to a sports pavilion.
It’s clear from my experience here in Broadland that our Parish Councils are increasingly being required to operate as community businesses. The early delivery of these infrastructure projects is made possible by this loan fund and alongside the loan Broadland District Council makes available a whole range of expertise not traditionally found within Parish Council officers.
How are Broadland Parish Councils evolving and preparing to deliver CIL funded projects?
Rackheath Parish Council has certainly seen many changes in personnel since the original eco-town proposal and they have also taken quite innovative approaches to strengthening their connection to the community. Rackheath Live is a parish run music festival now in its 7th year. Preparing parishes for CIL projects is about more than access to financial resource and we have found events to be powerful in building relationships and a sense of community at times of change. Brian and Tracey from Rackheath Parish Council observe that:
“Apart from money raised to spend on facilities in the village, the event brings the community together.”
With projects like pavilion improvements on the cards, events like Rackheath Live not only provide a powerful platform to consult parishioners on what they want, they are also a great setting for Parish Councillors to operate with a more community enterprise mindset. Plans in Rackheath to build new and much needed infrastructure become stronger as the result of events like this.
So what are we exploring in Broadland to further strengthen our communities through the opportunity presented by CIL?
Firstly the “Community Business Success Guides” created by Power to Change are going to be a valuable resource as Parish Councils begin to look more like community businesses. To further support this we are looking for ways to use the broader community to offer business mentoring to Parish Councillors. It is becoming more common for parishes to make grant applications and so we are exploring whether Broadland District Council can provide monitoring and evaluation tools to its Parish Councils to strengthen applications. Finally, we’re keen to explore whether a crowdfunding platform with match funding from CIL could be set up to work across the parishes of a district.
There are tremendous opportunities for communities through the arrival of CIL funds. Here at Broadland District Council we are keen to explore and start a conversation around what best practice in supporting our Parish Councils looks like.