UK: Planning Act Blog 200: Two NPSs May Be Dropped, Other News And A Christmas Champagne Competition!

Last Updated: 22 December 2010
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 200, first published on 21 December 2010, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. 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 two written statments from the government, how the Rookery South application will be examined, and a 200th edition / Christmas competition.

The government issued two relevant written statements yesterday - one on major infrastructure planning reform and one on the National Planning Policy Framework - something expected but absent from the Localism Bill. They can be found here and here.

Major infrastructure planning reform statement

The first statement says many things that we knew already but adds some new information. First, it is accompanied by a 'work plan', which is essentially a short update of the previous series of 'route maps'. The work plan can be found here.

It sets out which Secretary of State will make decisions on which applications. For energy applications it will be the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change; for transport applications it will be the Secretary of State for Transport; but before it gets too predictable, for hazardous waste applications it will be the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and for water and waste water applications it will be the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, jointly.

The timetable for decision-making will be 'unchanged' at 12 months from the start of examination. Actually it would have been nine months under the old system once the relevant NPS had been finalised, so strictly speaking it is longer. I feel like Winston Smith noticing that the chocolate ration has been reduced rather than increased. Nevertheless, the government is going to look at ways to speed the process up even further. The government will also try to clear the backlog of 64 applications that it received prior to the start of the new regime in March 2010 but has not yet decided.

There is some news on National Policy Statements (NPSs). The six energy NPSs, revised drafts issued in October, are likely to be approved in spring 2011. The waste water NPS, issued in draft in November, is likely to be approved in summer 2011. Waste water will be 'switched on', in terms of applications having to be made to the IPC, in April 2011 (one date that has not changed since before the election). The Hazardous Waste NPS is likely to be issued in April 2011, to be approved in early 2012. The need for a Water Supply NPS will be considered once the water companies have finalised their water resources management plans in early 2011 - in other words, this NPS may not be forthcoming after all.

The Ports NPS will be approved 'during 2011', and the National Networks NPS (road and rail) will be published 'in 2011', so the DfT is giving itself rather a large amount of leeway at the moment. A more precise timetable will be published 'soon'. There will not be an Airports NPS after all; instead there will be a scoping document published in March 2011 and a draft policy framework in March 2012.

Parliamentary approval for NPSs is contained in the Localism Bill, but the government will seek this even for the NPSs that will predate the Localism Bill being enacted - i.e. the six energy NPSs, the Ports NPS and the Waste Water NPS, and perhaps the Hazardous Waste NPS too.

National planning policy framework

The government intends to combine the 1000 pages of existing Planning and Minerals Policy Statements and Guidance into a single document, the National Planning Policy Framework. It will have a localist approach, only deliver government objectives where relevant, proportionate and effective, and will be user-friendly and accessible. It will be published for consultation in 2011, but first the government is asking us what it should contain. Answers on a postcard to Alan Scott at CLG, or in an email to by 28 February 2011.

Of particular relevance to infrastructure planning, the National Policy Statement regime will remain outside the national planning policy framework for now.

Rookery South update

It has been announced that the preliminary meeting for the first project to be considered by the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a proposed energy from waste plant in Bedfordshire, will take place on Monday 17 January. The meeting will start at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Park Inn Hotel, St Mary's Street, Bedford.

A preliminary meeting is the equivalent to a 'pre-inquiry meeting' before a public inquiry, but because there is a presumption of no hearings, a different name is used. It does not deal with substantive issues, but is concerned with the timing and procedure to be followed during the six-month examination period.

The date means that the examination of the application must conclude by 17 July, although because that is a Sunday, the preliminary timetable that lead Commissioner Paul Hudson has published uses Friday 15 July as the deadline. A decision on the application must be made by 17 October, being nine months later than the meeting, if the energy NPSs have been finalised by then, or 17 January 2012 if not. Calculating the various deadlines in the Planning Act and associated guidance suggests that the shortest time a preliminary meeting could be held after an application is made is about three months later, but this meeting is more than five months after the application was made on 5 August, meaning that the whole process could take up to 17 months.

The letter issued to interested parties can be found here and makes interesting reading for those involved in this and other proposed applications.

It sets out the preliminary timetable and other matters that will be considered at the preliminary meeting. Points to note: the panel of three commissioners, referred to as the Examining Authority, or ExA, does not consider that any issue-specific hearings need to be held (but their minds could be changed at the preliminary meeting). There is still the possibility of open floor hearings and compulsory acquisition hearings. Only five days have been set aside for each of these, however, so they are not expected to be extensive, despite over 1000 representations having been made.

Local authorities please note that the deadline for submitting a Local Impact Report is provisionally set at 28 February 2011, just over two months away. This is also the deadline for all full written representations to be made.

An indication of the ExA's more inquisitorial role is given by a timetabled entry for publication of its first round of questions by 21 January, on which comments can be submitted until 28 February. There is then a second round starting on 11 April, with a comment deadline of 9 May. Indeed, the letter concludes with a statement of five issues that ExA thinks are the main ones:

  • air quality,
  • compulsory acquisition,
  • landscape and visual impact,
  • traffic and transportation, and
  • waste recovery and management.

Christmas competition

To celebrate the 200th blog entry and the festive season, here is a quiz on infrastructure planning with a prize of a bottle of champagne for the first all-correct, or the most correct, answer drawn out of the hat after the closing date of 11.59 p.m. on 4 January 2011. Only those eligible to receive champagne can enter, and employees and partners of Bircham Dyson Bell are also unable to enter - sorry guys. I will also only accept the first entry from each person.

The answer to each question is a number, and to help you the numbers are in increasing order. The answers are supposed not to be immediately googlable, but they should all be found somewhere on the blog. Where it says 'so far' that means up to today's date of 21 December. Please enter by sending an email with 'Blog competition' as the subject to Good luck!

  1. How many applications has the Infrastructure Planning Commission accepted so far?
  2. What is the only number of commissioners that cannot consider an application?
  3. How many nominated sites for nuclear power stations are not in the latest nuclear power NPS draft?
  4. How many National Policy Statements have had one or more drafts published so far?
  5. The Planning Act regime applies to how many different types of project?
  6. How many IPC commissioners are there?
  7. How many projects are currently listed on the IPC project list (including withdrawn applications)?
  8. Which clause of the Localism Bill abolishes the IPC?
  9. How many representations were received on the first application to the IPC?
  10. In which year is the IPC expected to be abolished?

The Planning Act blog is now going to have a seasonal break but will be back during the week beginning 4 January 2011. Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all our readers!

Previous entry 199: more energy NPS scrutiny, plus Localism Bill news

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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