A Croydon couple have received a bill for more than £16,500 from their local council after applying to extend their home.
Julian Murray, 37 who works in IT, and his partner Nicole Malabre, 39, a civil servant, were “shocked” after receiving the bill, which covers a “planning levy” from Croydon council.
The bill, known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which came into force on April 6, 2010 is officially defined as: “A charge which local authorities can levy on most types of new development in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area”.
According to Croydon council: “All developments may be liable to pay CIL, if they involve a new build; and they result in one or more new dwellings or they have a net additional floor area of 100m2 or more.”
Although the council approved his planning application in November 5 2014, Murray said he was unaware of the levy until he received a demand for it from the council two weeks after work started on his property in Coulsdon, Surrey.
“On November 22 I got an email from the council saying that I owed them almost £17,000,” he told East London Lines. “I was thinking for what? Just because our developments were over 100m2, even though we had already got the approval.”
Murray complained to the council for not telling him about the levy. In a letter dated April 22 2016, Nathan Elvery, chief executive of Croydon Council, replied: “The council has previously apologised for not advising you on CIL. However, not only is there no legal duty for the council to make applicants aware of CIL during planning processes. The legislation is very clear. It is the responsibility of the applicant, land owner and/or developer to ensure they are aware of CIL regulations.”
Murray felt the calculation of the bill itself was quite confusing and said: “They [council] didn’t know how much we were over in m2 and the price they were charging us, well we don’t really know what that calculation is for. It’s all over the place.”
The council did, however, offer an exemption form that Murray could appeal for on the conditions he had not started construction at his property, which at that point he had.
“I know I started work and I didn’t want lie and we decided to tell the truth, but the council weren’t having it and told us to pay,” Murray said.
The couple have been in an ongoing battle for two years with the council and have tried to take the necessary steps with their solicitors and MPs to solve the dispute. They have decided that court proceedings are the way forward.
“If there was a bit of compassion from the council this could have been avoided,” said Murray. “We’re not paying and we will have our day in court. We are hoping that the magistrates will have some common sense and judge that we can’t pay for something we don’t know about.”
Murray, who bought his house in August 2014, told East London Lines he applied for planning permission in September 2014 to ensure his “home was fit for his family and children to live in.”
The renovations to his house were intended for his extended family. Two extra rooms were built making a total of five rooms, with an added loft conversion and an extension on to the kitchen.
Despite careful evaluation with hired draftsmen and several meetings with council officers “nothing was said about this levy,” according to Muray’s partner Malabre.
Murray told East London Lines they had a planning officer to view the site: “The planning officer didn’t mention anything about CIL. I asked her: ‘Is there anything else we need to know?’ and she said ‘no’.”
Malabre said she checked the council’s website at various times after the levy was made and found the information on CIL “conflicting.” The chief executive responded to this in his letter and said:
“I would advise that information regarding CIL has always been on the council website to view in the wider public domain. It is unfortunate that you did not familiarise yourself with all relevant planning legislation.”
The couple say they have spent the past month speaking with the Valuations Office at Croydon Council as well as the Local Government Ombudsman. The couple are waiting to hear the Ombudsman’s judgment.
Murray said he would like a resolution to avoid court but added: “On principle alone, we have to fight it. I strongly believe in the justice system – and what’s going on is silly as far as I am concerned. I have nothing to lose.”
A council spokesperson said: “In the case in question a letter notifying the applicant of their liability for paying a CIL charge was issued two days after planning permission was granted.
Applicants should normally be advised by their agents if their proposed development is likely to incur CIL charges.”