Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Replacing the Infrastructure Planning Commission

Some weeks ago, I wrote that one of the items near the top of the governments ‘IN’ tray must be an urgent decision as to what is to replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission, in light of their stated intention to abolish it. As expected, the government is to announce its closure later today and its merger with the Planning Inspectorate.

Early reports of this decision seem to be based on remarks made by the Chancellor, George Osborne, to a conference of local authority chief executives in London yesterday. It is expected that the actual announcement will be made by the Minister for ‘Decentralisation’, Greg Clark, at the RTPI’s summer bunfight in London later today.

What is proposed is the establishment of a ‘Major Infrastructure Planning Unit’ within the Planning Inspectorate. Inspectors will report to DCLG ministers, who will then make a ministerial decision in the same way as they would in respect of a called-in planning application. I recall suggesting at the time the IPC was set up (under the 2008 Act) that this would be a more sensible way of organising it.

We are promised that major infrastructure schemes will still be ‘fast-tracked’, and proposals will still be judged against National Policy Statements, although these will in future be subject to parliamentary approval (which could further slow an already tardy process). It is the continuing absence of National Policy Statements in certain important areas which is preventing some major infrastructure schemes from being brought forward. This is an issue to which DCLG needs to give urgent attention.

[A final thought: Did the IPC ever actually receive a formal application for development consent during its short life?]


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