Community Infrastructure Levy

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at planning applicants who have concerns about the way the council has dealt with the Community Infrastructure Levy in relation to their planning application and is considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman. 

I have a problem with the Community Infrastructure Levy. Can the Ombudsman help me?

Sometimes, yes. But there are some matters the law does not allow us to look at:

We cannot deal with a complaint about something that affects nearly everyone living in a council’s area, such as the rates of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charged.

We cannot normally deal with complaints about issues where there are appeal rights.

There is a right of appeal to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), once a review request has been made to the collecting authority:

  • on the grounds that the chargeable amount has been calculated incorrectly
  • against an apportionment of the liability
  • that the collecting authority has incorrectly determined the value of the interest in land used in an apportionment assessment, when claiming charitable relief

There is an immediate right of appeal to the VOA on the grounds that the collecting authority has incorrectly determined:

  • that a residential annexe is not wholly within the grounds of the main dwelling
  • the value of the self-build exemption allowed
  • the value of the notional relief (for pre-CIL planning permissions amended when the CIL came into effect)

There is also a right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate:

  • against a decision to impose a surcharge
  • against the issuing of a stop notice
  • on the grounds that the commencement date has been wrongly determined

If you have already appealed to the VOA or the Planning Inspectorate before contacting us, or make an appeal during our investigation, we will not be able to consider your complaint, and will have no discretion to do so.

However, there are some circumstances in which we may investigate your complaint. Sometimes something happens which cannot be remedied by an appeal or it would not be reasonable for you to be expected to have pursued an appeal. In such cases, we have discretion to consider whether to investigate your complaint. 

We might also consider matters for which the law does not provide a right of appeal, such as disputes over the way a collecting authority has considered some exemptions and reliefs, such as:

  • the exemption for minor development (development of less than 100m² which does not involve the construction of a new dwelling)
  • the level of social housing relief, or discretionary relief for exceptional circumstances

How do I complain?

If there is a right of appeal, we would normally expect you to use that appeal right. However, there are strict time limits for appealing. So, if you are unclear about your appeal rights, you may first wish to contact the council or seek independent advice.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us. 

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We can consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it dealt with your complaint. Some of the issues we can look at are:

  • inaccurate information about procedures or appeal rights
  • misleading advice
  • no or an inadequate response to correspondence

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

It depends on what the fault was and what consequences it had for you. Sometimes things go wrong but do not affect the outcome. 

In general, we will seek to put someone in the position that they would have been in if the fault had not occurred. Where the consequences have been quite significant, such as the loss of an appeal right, we can recommend that the council takes action to put the matter right.

Sometimes it will be appropriate for the council to pay a financial remedy for the distress its actions have caused, for the impact of unreasonable delay or your time and trouble. 

Where we find fault with the council’s procedures, we will often recommend that it makes changes so that the same problem does not occur again in the future. 

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr X complained about the council’s decision to apply the CIL to his development because both pre-planning advice and the case officer’s report said it was not applicable, and the council failed to notify him until several months later when it was too late to revise his plans. He said that, as a result, he was presented with a large and unexpected bill with additional charges for late payments that he could not afford to pay. This caused significant distress and jeopardised his future plans for his retirement.
We found that the council was at fault in including incorrect information in the CIL report and failing to correct that that error when the report was signed off, resulting in an incomplete Decision Notice.
We accepted that Mr X would likely have downsized his plans for an extension, such that he could claim an exemption, had the council included the correct information in the Decision Notice.
However, we also felt that the consequences of the council’s error could have been mitigated to a degree if his Agent had communicated the council’s request for a CIL liability form. Given this we felt that it would not be appropriate to hold the council wholly responsible for the injustice to Mr X. 
The council agreed to reduce the amount payable by Mr X for his CIL liability by half, to £14,637.64 and cancel all outstanding invoices for accrued late payment surcharges. The council had already put in place service improvements the to ensure a similar problem did not recur.
Mr X complained that the council gave him wrong advice when he called to check if he would be liable for CIL when converting a retail unit to a dwelling for him and his family. The council advised him he would have no CIL liability as it assumed that he already had planning permission before the CIL scheme was introduced. However, it later sent Mr X a CIL demand.
After Mr X contacted the Ombudsman, the council accepted that it was at fault. Had it realised that Mr X was planning works under permitted development rights, using the ‘prior approval’ process, it would have advised him that the commencement date of the works was the ‘applicable date’ for the CIL. As this was after the CIL scheme came into force, it would have advised him that he would be liable for a CIL charge but could apply for a ‘self-build’ CIL exemption.
The council could not remove the CIL liability charge from the Local Land Charge Register, unless it was first paid in full. However, it agreed that, if Mr X could provide the information needed to qualify for a CIL self-build exemption and he satisfied the other requirements, it would ensure he was not disadvantaged by its failure to inform him of the CIL self-build exemption scheme. It also agreed to pay Mr X’s reasonable legal costs if it was necessary to enter into a legal agreement

Other sources of information

Councils provide information on their websites about the CIL and the associated procedures and appeal rights.

Detailed advice is available on the website:

Summary advice is also available on the Planning Portal, which is a joint venture between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and TerraQuest Ltd:

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

June 2023

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