UK: Infrastructure Planning - What's Coming In 2012, And A Survey

Last Updated: 10 January 2012
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 308, published on 5 January 2012, 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 forward to the events of 2012.

This blog entry looks forward to what is in the pipeline in the world of infrastructure planning, the mirror image of the previous entry.

National Policy Statements

In January, we should see some progress on National Policy Statements (NPSs).  The Ports NPS should get the rest of its debate in the House of Commons and be finalised ('designated') and the long-awaited National Networks NPS (covering road, rail and rail freight projects) should be published in draft for consultation at last.  Two more NPSs, Waste Water and Hazardous Waste, should be designated as well at some point.

Localism Act changes

In early April, the changes to the Planning Act regime brought in by the Localism Act 2011 are expected to come into force.  The main change is of course the 'abolition' of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) by folding it into the Planning Inspectorate.  The government will consult on and then issue a direction as to how it will deal with the applications already in progress to ensure a seamless transition.

National Planning Policy Framework

That month is also expected to see the implementation of a revised National Planning Policy Framework, which is likely to be published sometime before that.  This is to replace the multitude of Planning Policy Guidance and Statements and, although does not impinge directly on the Planning Act regime, will affect local planning policy and hence Local Impact Reports.  The original draft attracted a lot of criticism and debate and the final draft is expected to introduce measures to reduce the impact on authorities without up-to-date plans.

Other consents streamlining

Once the NPPF is in force, the government will turn its attention to regulatory bodies that give consents associated with infrastructure projects to try to speed these up and incentivise positive decisions, something that was announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.  The government is already undertaking a review intended to reduce the burden on projects of the Habitats and Wild Birds EU Directives - for details see here.  How much wiggle room there is, though, between the words of the directives and their implementation in the UK via regulations is open to question.  This review is expected to conclude by budget day (21 March).

Review of Planning Act regulations

Before the Localism Act changes come into force, the government will be conducting a 'light touch review' of the rules and regulations supporting the Planning Act regime.  They need to be changed anyway to remove references to the IPC, and this is a chance to make any minor tweaks to improve the regime at the same time.  It would help this review if you were to participate in the survey of experience of the Planning Act regime to date being conducted by NIPA, the National Infrastructure Planning Association.  The survey can be found here.

Projects and thresholds

In terms of projects, the IPC now has nine live projects on its books, and Parliament is still considering a tenth that was given a green light by the IPC.  Given that this time last year it only had two, this is a significant increase, expected to snowball during 2012.  If past experience is a guide, however, it will be a fairly modest snowball with a long tail (sounds more like a comet) - for example I would expect only two applications to be decided this year. 

Sewage transfer is expected to be added to the regime in February, and the final two types of project, water transfer and dams or reservoirs, are expected to go 'live' this April.  The government has also promised to review the threshold for railway projects.

Judicial review

The courts will be dealing with at least two judicial reviews early in the year.  The Court of Appeal must decide whether to consider an appeal from the High Court by Innovia Cellophane, a landowner in Somerset, who is objecting to its land being taken for purposes it says are outside the scope of the Planning Act.  Greenpeace, meanwhile, will have its challenge of the Nuclear Power NPS heard by the High Court, on the grounds that the Fukushima accident made the designation of the NPS premature.  There may be other JRs as the regime beds in further.

Community Infrastructure Levy

As the first few Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) regimes come into force (three now: Newark and Sherwood, Shropshire and the London Borough of Redbridge), most local authorities are likely to get as far as publishing a charging schedule (what it will charge CIL on and how much) for consultation this year.

Competition result

Finally, I can announce that the winner of the Christmas champagne crossword competition, being the first correct entry pulled out of the (virtual) hat is Bob Owen of Babcock - congratulations!  The completed crossword is shown below.

Crossword solution

Previous blog entry 307: Planning Act roundup - 11 firsts for 2011
Next blog entry 309: UK resists further infrastructure authorisation streamlining by the EU

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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