UK: Planning Act Blog 182: Welcome to NIPA - The National Infrastructure Planning Association

Last Updated: 3 November 2010
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 182, first published on 2 November 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on last night's launch of the National Infrastructure Planning Association.

A new body aimed at promoting best practice in infrastructure planning and authorisation was launched at Bircham Dyson Bell's offices last night. The 'National Infrastructure Planning Association' or NIPA will soon be open to membership to all those involved in the planning and authorisation of nationally significant infrastructure projects. The title of this blog post is deliberately ambiguous to welcome NIPA to the world, and also to welcome you to NIPA.

It was standing room only as more than 100 people representing promoters, consultants, regulators, local authorities and other stakeholders heard Steve Norris, the inaugural Chair of NIPA, launch the association. He said that the need for new infrastructure in the UK was increasingly urgent and yet the process for its authorisation still had room for improvement. The Planning Act 2008 had established a new regime common to several sectors and would work best if those involved had a forum to share their experiences and develop best practice. With the forthcoming Localism Bill expected in around three weeks, which would make changes to the Planning Act regime, it was timely that NIPA was being created just as there was scope for making improvements to the regime that would benefit all those involved. Among other things, promoters wanted as much certainty as possible in advance of making applications, and those affected by proposals wanted to be sure that their views would be able to be expressed at the appropriate time and would be taken into account.

Steve Norris stressed that NIPA was to be inclusive and would strive to have a balanced membership covering actual and prospective promoters of projects, organisations and individuals affected by projects, consultants of all disciplines working in the industry, and industry regulators. NIPA would not express views for or against particular projects or technologies, but would strive to ensure that the process of making and considering applications was carried out as effectively as possible. For example, a consultation is running on the revised drafts of the six energy national policy statements (NPSs). It would not be appropriate for NIPA to respond to this consultation to say that it supported or opposed nuclear power, but it would be appropriate for it to respond with suggested changes intended to improve the NPSs' fitness for purpose.

Steve Norris was flanked by BDB partner Paul Thompson and myself, and Paul then ran through a suggested structure for NIPA on which Steve invited comments from the floor while I recorded the proceedings. Many useful questions were asked and comments made, such as the pros and cons of working groups being set up to consider particular issues, the relationship between NIPA and other organisations in the field such as the Major Projects Association and Compulsory Purchase Association, and to what extent NIPA would be able to represent its members given their different interests.

A steering group has been established that will eventually represent all sectors and disciplines involved in infrastructure planning and authorisation. The steering group had its first meeting earlier yesterday and will take on the commments made at the launch to develop the membership and governance structures and business plan for the association, soon to be issued for wider consultation. If you were not at last night's meeting and would like to be included, please let me know. The steering group will eventually morph into whatever permanent structure is decided upon.

NIPA will have its own website at www.nipa.org.uk (not to be confused with that of the National Institute of Pension Administrators in the US, who have www.nipa.org). Use of the website and email will be the order of the day with NIPA to ensure it is as responsive and efficiently run as possible.

I hope that you agree that the establishment of NIPA is a good idea and I look forward to it becoming established as a major voice in infrastructure planning and authorisation. I will keep you posted on NIPA as it develops.

Previous entry 181: Local Growth White Paper - counties to lose planning functions?

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