UK: Planning Act Blog: 196: Oh no it isn't - Localism Bill Delayed Again and Other News

Last Updated: 10 December 2010
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 196, first published on 9 December 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 a further delay to the Localism Bill and other infrastructure authorisation news.

The long-awaited Localism Bill suffered further delays yesterday.  Originally expected on 22 November, then even more confidently predicted for today (including by me - sorry!), it is now expected next week.  The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) claim that they have never set a date for it, although their own business plan says November 2010. (Look at Milestones 1 E, 2 A, 2 K, 4 A, 4 E, 4 G, 5 E and 5 G in this document - and it is even more explicit in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' structural reform update)

Instead of the Bill, the housing minister Grant Shapps has issued a press release and a written minsterial statement about reform of social housing, which says that the Localism Bill will be issued 'shortly'.

This time the delays are put down to various reasons, eloquently expressed in this Local Government Chronicle blog entry. I'm not convinced by the 'lack of Parliamentary time' excuse, since it doesn't take up any Parliamentary time to publish a Bill, and indeed on today's agenda there was the item 'Introduction of a Bill'.  The government has introduced the Loans to Ireland Bill instead. 

Debating a Bill does need time, granted, and again Parliamentary time had been set aside for the second reading of 'a Bill' in the Commons on 15 December, unusually without the title of the Bill being disclosed. However in today's Business Statement (in which the Parliamentary agenda for the following week is announced), that slot is also taken up by the Loans to ireland Bill, and there is no sign of the Localism Bill for the remaining sitting days this year.  We are therefore looking at a January second reading, meaning that the enactment of the Bill may not happen until early 2012.

So the Grand Old (former) Duke (leader) of (West) York(shire council Bradford) has marched the troops up to the top of the hill for a second time before marching them down again.  I feel sorry for all the conference and other companies who have organised seminars to discuss the Localism Bill in early December - and now they have no Localism Bill to discuss.

In the meantime, here is a brief round-up of other Planning Act regime news.

National Policy Statements and Parliamentary scrutiny

The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee of the Commons has been given a 25-day reprieve in publishing its report on the revised National Policy Statements as it announces a second oral evidence session next week.
Under House of Commons Standing Orders, the committee would have had to report by 22 December, being 39 days before the 'relevant date' of 31 January 2011 announced when the NPSs were published.  Yesterday, the Commons agreed to postpone the deadline until 14 days before the relevant date, i.e. 17 January.  I'm glad someone is paying attention to the deadline.

Also announced yesterday, but mentioned on this blog on Monday, the committee is to have a second oral evidence session on 14 December.  This will be at 11 a.m., provisionally in Committee Room 17.  Witnesses at 11 a.m. will be the RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth; and then at 11.45 a.m. the committee will hear from the Nuclear Industry Association, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Energy UK, Citibank and the Renewable Energy Association.  How did Citibank get in there, I wonder?

Covanta Energy project

The one and only project currently being considered by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has taken another couple of steps towards the start of the formal examination process.  This is for an energy from waste project (the promoter does not use the 'i' word, nor even 'energy from waste' - it refers to the project as a 'resource recovery facility') in Bedfordshire, which has attracted 1004 objections.

First, the promoter has confirmed that it has complied with the requirements in the Act about publicising the application.  Then the Chair of the IPC, Sir Mike Pitt, has announced that a panel of three commissioners will consider it: Paul Hudson (former Chief Planner - and blog reader), Andrew Phillipson and Emrys Parry (below, l to r).  The surprisingly complex procedure for arriving at this decision required by the Act is displayed in all its email chain glory on the IPC website.

The next step will be the announcement of a 'preliminary meeting' where the panel will decide the timetable for examining the application.  The meeting is expected to take place next month.  A decision must be taken on the application within nine months of the preliminary meeting.
Previous entry 195: Localism Bill on Thursday as government confused over contents

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