Wennington fire: 'Strings attached' to rebuilt homes

Destroyed house in Wennington
Wennington residents are rebuilding their homes after they were destroyed in a wildfire

Residents who lost their homes in a wildfire have criticised an east London council for a tax on rebuilding their homes.

Sixteen homes were destroyed in July last year in Wennington, Havering.

The council said owner occupiers must live there for three years to be exempt from paying the tax but landlords would have to pay it.

Resident Carole Hager said if she died within the next three years, the fee would come out of her estate.

The tax that Havering Council has put in a place is known as a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

The CIL is a type of financial charge designed to allow local authorities in England and Wales to fund infrastructure in areas where developments are taking place.

Those who intend to live in the house they are rebuilding are exempt from the levy if they fill out some paperwork from the council.

The CIL is paid and then reclaimed in these cases.

Carole Hager
Carole Hager has been told she has to stay in her rebuilt home for three years to avoid the CIL

Carole Hager told BBC London that she would be liable to pay £10,000, as the levy depends on the size and type of house that is being rebuilt for her.

She said: "It means we can not sell for three years otherwise we might have to pay an amount due [under the levy].

"I'm 79 and the house might not be built until the end of next year and I shall be 80, then I've got to wait for three years.

"If I should die within that three-year period, then the fee would come out of my estate."

Paula Jones
Paula Jones called the CIL bill "terrible"

Another resident Paula Jones said she had been given a CIL bill of £6,500.

"I don't think we should have to pay it," she said. "It's just terrible. And now we've got this on top of the added stress."

Havering Council said the CIL would apply to a "very small number" of landlords as they would not be occupying their properties.

The council spokesperson added: "Ordinarily, the government's Community Infrastructure Levy would apply but owner occupiers in Wennington who were affected by last summer's devastating fire can apply for an exemption.

"We have already spoken to many of the concerned residents and we can help them to fill out an exemption form."

The council also said it would "continue to support them as they rebuild their homes and their lives".

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