A developer has been ordered to pay a £500,000 bill after the company started building work without informing a council.

Heronslea Ltd failed to notify Hertsmere Borough Council when it started work for 55 homes off Bushey Hall Drive in Bushey.

Regulations state a developer must submit a Commencement Notice to its local authority no later than the day before work begins on a development.

The council says officers noticed buildings were demolished and trenches were dug during a routine visit in June 2019, but no Commencement Notice had been received.

Heronslea Ltd had already paid a £1.1 million Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to the council in March, but must now pay a further £500,000 towards local infrastructure for breaching the regulations.

By law, a developer who undertakes any new development that creates an additional floor space of 100m2 or more, is liable for CIL.

The money is used to help deliver infrastructure to support the development in the area. 

An appeal submitted by the Heronslea Ltd to the Planning Inspectorate contesting the £500,000 CIL from the council was dismissed on Thursday, December 31.

The company owners had argued that they were only liable for £1.1 million in CIL, because the development of 55 homes off Bushey Hall Drive included affordable housing and qualified for social housing relief. 

However, the Planning Inspectorate upheld the council’s decision to remove the relief and include surcharges amounting to over £175,750 for late payment after Heronslea Ltd also failed to pay the levy when they were ordered to in a demand notice issued by the council.

Watford Observer:

Cllr Dr Harvey Cohen, Portfolio Holder for Planning, welcomed the decision.

He said: “The Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL is an important tool for local authorities to use to support growth in their area.

“We expect all developers working in Hertsmere to meet CIL regulations to the letter. Obviously we’re happy to work with any developers who are unclear about the regulations - our planning team is always available to offer specialist advice. 

“However, in this instance, the developer knew the rules and chose to ignore them and now they have incurred a huge bill as a result.

“We’re not prepared to be denied important CIL payments that will be used towards providing classrooms, GP surgeries, community spaces, play areas and other facilities vital for the health and wellbeing of our residents.”

Heronslea Group CEO Jason Rishover said: “The Lincolnsfield site is of great historical importance as it was formerly the site of Bushey Hall, one of Hertfordshire's largest and foremost Country Houses, and had been used as a US Air Force base in WWII. As a result, it was likely there would be artefacts found during the building process and so one of the pre-conditions of the planning application was to employ a watching brief when preparing the site to ensure these artefacts were preserved and handled correctly.

"This process necessarily entailed the removal of buildings which we believed at the time did not mean that construction had commenced, and it was for that reason that the CIL Commencement Notice was not served. There was certainly no intention to delay the payment of the CIL, and we consider that to remove the Social Housing Relief on what was a technicality was wrong. 

"We have provided 21 affordable homes within this site alone and as one of the biggest developers in the borough we have willingly paid £10's of millions to the Council over the years in order to support local infrastructure and community projects by way of S.106 Contributions and CIL payments.  We sincerely hope that we can continue to do so for many years to come, as we have always had a good relationship with the Council. In the meantime, we are considering the judgement carefully with our legal advisors before deciding what further steps to take.”