Thursday, 10 March 2011

IPC to take over PINS?

I reported in this blog some time ago that there were fears within the Planning Inspectorate that they would be ‘swamped’ by the Infrastructure Planning Commission when the two bodies are merged under the provisions of the Localism Bill. These fears could well be fuelled by the announcement that the Chairman of the IPC, Sir Michael Pitt, is to become chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate next month in place of Katrine Sporle.

It is beginning to look as though, instead of being a distinct and separate division within PINS, the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (as successor to the IPC) is going to be fully integrated as part of the inspectorate. Greg Clark is reported to have announced that the IPC Commissioners “will form part of a single group of professionals that will work across the whole range of applications and appeal casework that the Planning Inspectorate will consider.” That sounds like a full merger to me, and could in practice amount to a complete take-over of PINS by the IPC.

Reading between the lines, it seems that the government envisage a further organisational shake-up of PINS in September 2014, when current IPC appointments (as well as Pitt’s appointment as CEO of PINS) will come to an end. In the meantime, Greg Clark also confirmed that major infrastructure applications in progress at the time of the merger will continue to be handled by the same individuals so as not to delay them, despite having only very recently rejected an amendment to the Localism Bill which was intended to ensure this. Only time will tell how this plays out in practice, and what effect it will have on PINS and on its performance in terms of handling its ‘normal’ appeals workload.

I leave you with one rather worrying thought. The possibility of further organisational changes within PINS in September 2014 might possibly be timed to coincide with radical changes to the appeals system which, although they have not been included in the Localism Bill, were foreshadowed in the Conservatives’ pre-election Green Paper (‘Open Source Planning’). Could the coalition government still be incubating such further changes, to be hatched in a year or two’s time and implemented in the Autumn of 2014?


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