UK: Planning Act Roundup - 11 Firsts For 2011

Last Updated: 30 December 2011
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 307, published on 20 December 2011, 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 looks back on the events of 2011.

In this, the last blog entry of 2011, I take a look back at the events of 2011. While others may focus on such minor events as the Arab Spring, the death of Bin Laden, the UK riots or the Eurozone crisis, I will of course be focusing on the planning and authorisation of infrastructure in the UK.

2011 saw a series of firsts, and so the review is presented in that way, in the order that they took place.

1. The first preliminary meeting

The application by Covanta Energy for an energy from waste facility at Rookery South in Bedfordshire clocked up many firsts during the year, being the first application to be accepted by the IPC by some months.

On 17th January, the first 'preliminary meeting' was held, which is notable (a) for being the first, and potentially only, public meeting about an application and (b) for setting the deadline for the examination period six months later. I was one of about 100 people attending the meeting in Bedford, described by lead commissioner Paul Hudson as a 'an unusual and significant event in planning history' - see related blog entry.

2. The first of each type of hearing

In due course, the Rookery South application clocked up the first of each of the three possible types of hearing - issue-specific, compulsory acquisition and open floor, on 13th May, 27th June and 5th July respectively. The hearings ran to about two weeks in total. I attended the first of these - see related blog entry.

3. The first legal challenge to an action by the IPC

Not to do with the Rookery South project this time, but the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. On 20th May Innovia Cellophane Ltd, a landowner in Bridgwater in Somerset, issued proceedings against the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) relating to its decision to allow Hinkley promoter EDF Energy to enter Innovia's land for survey purposes. Innovia argued that this should not have been done, principally because the proposed use of the land was for dwellings, which cannot be part of an application to the IPC.

The case was heard on 1st November and dismissed, but the claimant is seeking leave from the Court of Appeal to appeal to it. See related blog entry and another reporting the result.

4. The first attempted change to an application

On 14th July the IPC decided not to accept changes to an application after it had been made. This related to Covanta Energy's other application for an energy from waste project at Brig y Cwm near Merthyr Tydfil. At the preliminary meeting, the promoter proposed to change the application to keep spoil at the site, thereby raising ground levels and hence the main building by 3 metres. The IPC decided that the change was material and that Covanta had either to continue with its original application or start again with the changed one. Covanta decided to do the former but later withdrew the application for other reasons. See related blog entry.

5. The first national policy statements to be designated

On 19th July the first six National Policy Statements (NPSs), the suite of six energy NPSs, were finally 'designated' i.e. came into force. Initially published for consultation in November 2009, these documents had a long gestation, but they are now the basis for assessing the need for energy projects and the impacts that should be addressed. See related blog entry.

6. The first legal challenge to an NPS

Hot on the heels of the NPSs being designated came the first legal challenge to one of them. On 26th August, Greenpeace launched a challenge to EN-6, the Nuclear Power NPS, on the grounds that its designation was premature given the events in Fukushima in March, arguing that more evidence was needed before the implications for the UK nuclear programme could be properly incorporated.

The case has yet to be heard. See related blog entry.

7. The first (and only) decision of the IPC

On 14th October, the IPC issued its decision to grant development consent for the Rookery South application, just short of the maximum nine months since the preliminary meeting. Given that the IPC is to be abolished in April 2012, and no other application is due to be decided by then, this will be the only decision the IPC ever makes. See related blog entry.

8. The first major amendments to the Planning Act

On 15th November the Localism Act 2011 received Royal Assent, bringing with it various changes to the Planning Act regime. Expected to come into force in April 2012, these include the abolition of the IPC (and its replacement by the National Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate), Parliamentary approval of NPSs and various minor tweaks to the Planning Act process. See related blog entry.

9. The first rail, road and harbour applications to the IPC

While 2010 saw the first three applications to the IPC, all for energy projects, 2011 saw the first in the field of transport. The first rail, road and harbour applications were made on 22nd June, 6th December and 19th December respectively. 12 applications have now made in total, covering six of the 16 types of nationally significant infrastructure project. See related blog entry.

10. The first Community Infrastructure Levy

On 1st December, the first Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) came into force in the area of Newark and Sherwood council in Nottinghamshire. Although not part of the Planning Act regime for authorising nationally significant infrastructure projects, CIL is related blog entry.

11. The first special parliamentary procedure

The final first of the year was once again from the Rookery South application. This time it was the necessity for it to undergo 'special parliamentary procedure', because it includes the compulsory acquisition of local authority or statutory undertaker land (both, in fact), and at least one of the landowners has made representations about the application. By the closing date of 19th December, 39 petitions had been deposited against the application.

So there we have the 11 firsts of 2011. As 2012 dawns and the regime continues to bed down, firsts should be thinner on the ground.

Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2012 to all blog readers! Christmas competition still open to entries

Previous blog entry 306: MPs criticise another National Policy Statement

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