UK: Planning Act 2008 Fourth Anniversary Progress Report

Last Updated: 4 December 2012
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the fourth anniversary of the Planning Act 2008 receiving royal assent, rather neatly coinciding with the four hundredth blog entry.

On Wednesday 26 November 2008, Queen Elizabeth II gave her assent to the Planning Act 2008.

For the first time, a single planning and authorisation regime would apply to infrastructure projects across different industry sectors.

The regime was aimed to speed up every aspect of the planning and authorisation process, as follows:

  • policy, and need in particular, would be declared in advance to avoid lengthy debates once applications were made;
  • pre-application consultation would become compulsory to flush out opposition early, allow changes to be made when the project was less entrenched and (let's be honest) start the clock running later;
  • applications would be examined principally in writing, with a limited ability to have hearings rather than inquiries and even more limited ability to conduct cross-examination;
  • fixed timetables would be introduced for examining applications and deciding them; and
  • the stage of the examining body making a recommendation for ministers to decide would be abolished, and the examining body, an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), would take the decisions itself.

Have these ambitions been fulfilled after four years? Read on.

Policy declared in advance

Four years on and only nine of the twelve planned National Policy Statements (NPSs) have appeared, so that improvement is still 'in progress'. Apart from the inter-departmental issues that NPSs have brought to the fore, I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what NPSs are. They are not new statements of policy, they are merely a document that expresses existing policy in a convenient format for preparing and examining applications. I asked that very question of the government back on 2 December 2009 and got that (correct) answer, but there still seems to be hesitation in publishing NPSs based on the supposed new policy they would contain. This makes it more difficult to prepare and examine applications - crudely, two-thirds of the applications so far decided have not had an NPS in place (albeit based on a very small sample size).

Pre-application consultation

Pre-application consultation is certainly a feature of making applications under the Planning Act that looms large. But is it effective? Partly. It does alert interested parties to forthcoming applications and give them a chance to influence applications before they are made. I'm not sure that all of them engage as much as they could, though, still preferring to make a detailed response only once an application has been made. Perhaps if guidance said that points made later that could have been made earlier will carry less weight, that would concentrate minds. Also, worries about procedural compliance by applicants potentially overshadow actually paying attention to the responses received.

Written examinations and limited hearings

A huge amount of documentation has indeed been generated during application examination and it is all there for all to see on the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) website. I think the record is held by the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station application, where there are nearly 2,300 documents on the PINS website. A six month application is around 110 working days, and so that represented more than 20 documents to write, and read, per day. This does not make it that easy to find one's way about an examination and document organisation in general could do with improvement.

Every application so far has had hearings, and I don't imagine that will change, but they certainly are less formal than public inquiries. This can have its issues, with little notice of what is discussed and therefore little opportunity to prepare answers (which has advantages and disadvantages). Although there is indeed little formal cross-examination, parties do ask each other questions fairly freely during hearings.

Fixed timescales

So far no examination has lasted more than the notional maximum of six months (extensions only being allowed in exceptional circumstances). I can't say that no examination has been extended, because the Brig y Cwm energy from waste application examination was, but the application was withdrawn before the original six months had passed so there is still a clean sheet on that front.

The deadline for the Kentish Flats windfarm application recommendation has been extended for two weeks due to a fee dispute, but decision periods have been stuck to so far. I played a small part in shortening these so that if an examination takes less than six months, the recommendation deadline is three months after the examination actually ends, rather than nine months after it began, as the Act was originally drafted.

Removal of ministerial decision stage

Of course this stage has been reinstated with the abolition of the IPC this April, thus extending application times by three months. In the two cases so far decided the government has stuck to the three month timetable it has given itself, which is more of an achievement than you might think.

So in every case, there have been definite improvements, but there could be more, which is probably unsurprising given that everyone is having to get used the new regime and do many things for the first time.

A final comment on the regime is that it is heavy on procedural compliance with plenty of opportunities for mistakes to be made, which risks the effect of taking attention away from the substantive issues surrounding an application. I have heard the Planning Act regime described as 'a game of snakes and ladders without any ladders', and so I leave you with the board on which it might be played.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Angus Walker
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.