This is entry number 295, published on 15 November 2011, of a
blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and
authorisation regime. Click
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Today's entry reports on the forthcoming autumn statement
In two weeks' time, the Chancellor George Osborne MP will
deliver his autumn statement on the economy, which will be a key
date for infrastructure planning and financing. This is because it
is expected to be accompanied by:
a growth strategy,
the second National Infrastructure Plan, and
the list of 40 infrastructure projects that will be shepherded
through the system by the government
Alongside the autumn statement will be a 'Growth
Strategy' document, jointly produced by the Treasury and the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a George and Vince
production. It has already been revealed that this will include a
£50bn boost to infrastructure projects, described to include
power stations, social housing, super-fast broadband and toll
Reading the small print, however, shows that the £50bn is
not going to be government money - it is private investors who will
be encouraged to stump up; the government will only be making the
conditions right for such investment. The government believes that
pension funds and insurance companies have stockpiles of cash that
could be used to fund infrastructure. If some of the money does
come from the government, it will be accused of switching from
'Plan A' (deficit reduction) to 'Plan B'
(investment), or at least Plan A+ (a bit of both).
National Infrastructure Plan
A year and a month ago, the Treasury body Infrastructure UK
published the first National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), as reported
here. It is
expected to publish an update to this, also on autumn statement
day. Apparently this is not necessarily going to be an annual event
- the next one might not come out for a couple of years.
The second NIP has also been revealed to contain new models for
financing infrastructure projects. This time banks are to be
expected to fund the development stage of a project (planning and
construction) and then pension funds would finance its
The third infrastructure-related announcement to happen on 29
November is expected to be the list of 40 projects that are to be
shepherded through the planning system as well as their
construction stages. This was foreshadowed back in September and
this blog entry. This list may or may not be part of the NIP,
but it is to be separate to any projects identified in the Growth
The announcement should give details of how the
'acceleration' of such projects will happen, and of
particular interest to blog readers will be what happens to any
projects that have not yet been consented. Will acceleration
involve any legal changes? Maybe not yet, but if the Planning Act
regime continues to be sluggish, who knows.
High quality infrastructure with minimal adverse effects is
vital to the prosperity of the country and so moves to encourage
funding and streamline planning of them are welcome. The two issues
are inextricably linked - the more certain the outcome of the
application process is in terms of what will and will not be
consented and when, the more likely it is that project promoters
will make applications and sources of finance will be found to take
the risk of funding the development process.
Certainty is not just a question of timing, but also covers the
need for the project, whether other consents are required, and what
adverse impacts will require what mitigation before an application
is approved. This is not just advantageous to project promoters,
but also those affected by projects. The Planning Act 2008 regime
goes some way to address all of these issues, but it and the
associated National Policy Statements could go further. If the
government needs any assistance in developing further streamlining
then the expertise is there for them to call upon. Just saying.
Incidentally, the government could do a bit of joined-up
thinking and combine the shepherding of the 40 named infrastructure
projects with the development of a streamlined authorisation
process that is compatible with the EU's 'Connecting Europe
Framework' proposals for key energy projects, previously
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