Couple’s dream move to Huntingdonshire village threatened by �38,000 development bill

A COUPLE’S dream of building their own home has been left in tatters by a new Government tax on building work – from home extensions and single-build homes to large-scale housing developments.

Robert Hartley and his wife said a potential Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) bill for more than �38,000 would ruin them financially and looks to have ended their plans of building a home for them and their three-year-old twin daughters.

The couple from Maxey, near Peterborough, decided they wanted to send the girls to Abbots Ripton Primary School and, after discovering the Old Rectory in the village was up for sale, bought the property.

The pair re-mortgaged their home to raise the �365,000 needed to purchase the building, which was built in 1951 but had been derelict for the past three years.

Structural assessments and soil analysis concluded the house was too decrepit to repair and renovate, so Mr Hartley made the decision to demolish the rectory and rebuild an almost identical home in its place.

“When I first set eyes on the Old Rectory I fell in love with it,” he said. “On realising that it had to be demolished our architects drew up plans which were submitted to Huntingdonshire District Council for a replacement dwelling.

“Before we knew it, we had received a demand for �38,361 in Community Infrastructure Levy, money which no-one knew anything about – not even our architects or solicitors. We had to withdraw our plans because the moment they were approved we would have been liable for �38,361 – which we don’t have.”

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The CIL – a planning charge introduced by the 2008 Planning Act – partly replaces Section 106 agreements, money paid by developers to provide infrastructure and facilities.

HDC announced back in March of this year it was introducing the levy, of �85 per square metre of new internal floor space. It estimated it would add about �7,800 to the cost of an average sized new house. The plan for Mr Hartley’s new home, which included a triple garage, was 450sq m.

He added: “Unless we can get around this it’s the end of the project and we face financial ruin. We love Abbots Ripton and wanted to live there and bring our daughters up in this beautiful village. All the neighbours support what we’re doing – we just think the world’s gone mad.”

According to the National Self Build Association (NaSBA) one in eight projects are being scrapped because of CIL. Chairman of NaSBA, Ted Stevens, said: “If the Council imposes this charge they are leaving a building derelict, a bloke destitute and delivering no new housing. They ought to be prepared to bring the amount down significantly.”

Mr Hartley’s architect, David Hartley of Architect Design Services, Peterborough, said HDC was, so far, the only council in the East of England to apply the CIL charges, but others were planning on phasing them in early next year.

“What’s going to happen is people are going to start doing developments on a piecemeal basis. They’ll apply for planning permission for 99sq m and build that, then they’ll submit another application for another 99sq m and build that, and so on – just to avoid the CIL.”

A spokesman for HDC added: “The council has been in correspondence with Mr Hartley, and explained how CIL applies in this case on the basis of national legislation. Unfortunately the legislation does not allow us to ‘discount’ the existing property’s floorspace when it has not been occupied prior to the grant of planning permission.”