In response to the need for a more streamlined planning application process in England and Wales, the Government established the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) pursuant to the Planning Act 2008 (the Act) in Autumn 2009. The IPC is an independent non-departmental public body that will examine and decide applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects and large scale facilities (NSIPs). What constitutes a NSIP is dealt with specifically in the Act.

The IPC will oversee certain planning and development in relation to three key sectors, namely:

  • Transport (ports, national networks and airports);
  • Energy and Climate Change (overarching energy, renewable energy projects, fossil fuels, electricity networks, gas supply infrastructure and gas and oil pipelines and nuclear power); and
  • Environment and Food and Rural Affairs (waste water, water supply and hazardous waste).

National Policy Statements (NPSs) are being prepared for each sub sector, paving the way for separate policy making and decision taking in that sector. Planning decisions relating to NSIPs in each particular sub sector will be taken by the IPC in accordance with and by reference to the relevant NPS. It is therefore very important that the NPS for each sub sector has input from those who are interested in and will be affected by its terms in the future.

The Draft NPS for Ports

The Department of Transport (DfT) published the "Developing a Ports National Policy Statement: Consultation Document" (Consultation Document) together with the "Draft National Policy Statement for Ports" (draft NPS for Ports) in November 2009. The Consultation Paper and the can be accessed at: (

The DfT view the IPC as a means to make the planning application process much more efficient, which they hope shall result in an overall growth in demand for port capacity of around 1% per annum in tonnage. In relation particularly to containers, ro-ro and liquefied natural gas terminals, growth is expected to be even faster at a rate of 3% per annum. What is interesting to note is that the Consultation Document confirms that "capacity consented to in the last five years is now expected to roughly match growth in national demand for container movements over the next twenty years or so". The IPC will therefore be viewing future applications for the purposes of creating spare capacity for England and Wales.

We, the ports and terminals sector, have until Monday 15 February 2010, to review the draft NPS for Ports and to respond to the specific questions raised in the Consultation Document. The draft NPS for Ports will be relevant to anyone who is interested or likely to be interested in port development in England and Wales, even those developments that fall below the thresholds for a NSIP in the Act, as it is intended that the draft NPS for Ports shall constitute potential material considerations for those port development applications also. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO), once established will consider planning applications for projects that are not NSIPs. Until the MMO is established, the Secretary of State will continue to consider such applications. NSIPs for ports include both construction and alteration of harbour facilities in England and Wales which meet (in the case of a new development) or increase (in the case of an alteration) the following thresholds:

  • 500,000 TEU for container terminals;
  • 250,000 ro-ro units for ro-ro terminals; and
  • 5 million tonnes for general cargo terminals.


Part 1 – Policy on Planning for Ports

Part 1 of the draft NPS for Ports provides background as to why the IPC has been introduced, the parameters of the draft NPS for Ports, the Government's current policy for Ports in England and Wales and sets out the view that, although capacity and growth are currently matched (the draft NPS for Ports summarises the various applications where consent has been granted or sought for container terminal expansion), there will be a need for additional capacity certainly in the next 20 years.

The draft NPS for Ports is to remain in place until it is amended, withdrawn or replaced. The Secretary of State does reserve itself the power to intervene in the event that there is a "material change in circumstances which necessitates the review of the NPS, in whole or in part, and it is in the national interest that a case should be made quickly".

Part 2 – Guidance on Assessment

Part 2 sets out the key considerations for the IPC when considering a planning application. Even if a planning application is in accordance with the draft NPS for Ports, the IPC must still weigh up the suggested environmental, social and economic benefits against the adverse impacts, including cumulative impacts of the project. Part 2 sets out in detail what benefits and adverse impacts should be considered, giving the "decision maker" guidance on what they should be looking as part of the application procedure. The Consultation Document particularly requests input on a number of impacts detailed in the draft NPS for Ports. The concern appears to be whether many of the issues that are covered have been properly dealt with by the DfT or whether certain matters, for example transportation links to and from the terminal, climate change issues and what should be considered as an economic benefit of a new terminal.

The deadline for providing comments on the draft NPS for Ports and the Consultation Document is 15 February 2010 and any party likely to be involved in future port and terminal development in England and Wales is encouraged to respond to the Consultation Document.

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.