Tuesday, 18 May 2010

More ministerial priorities

The two priorities for ministers I mentioned in a previous post were simply my view as to two issues which I feel ought to receive early ministerial attention.

In practice, ministers may have more pressing problems to consider. The first of these is what to do about the IPC and major infrastructure planning. Apparently, the Commission has yet to receive its first formal application for development consent. Ministers will have to decide fairly quickly whether they will continue with the development consents system for major infrastructure projects set up under the 2008 Act or whether to replace this and scrap the IPC, in which case they must then decide what to put in its place.

One possible compromise would be to merge the IPC with PINS who would hold a public inquiry and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State (as in Section 77 call-ins), with the final decision being taken by the Secretary of State. In the past, of course, it was not necessarily the SSCLG (or his predecessor) who took the decision; for example, in the case of a power station, the decision would have been made by the Secretary of State for Energy (as that post was then known).

The second area requiring ministerial attention is the future of CIL. Is this form of funding for local public infrastructure to be rolled out over the whole country and made permanent, or should we revert to the more flexible system of planning obligations under Section 106 (or similar statutory powers)? One reform which might be retained, and even extended, is the need for any s.106 agreement to pass a test of necessity in order to be lawful. Financial contributions should be contingent on the completion of an identified infrastructure project (with a bond to secure the payment in the meantime). The need for the financial contribution should arise directly from the development in respect of which the contribution is to be paid.


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