The new infrastructure planning commission
The New Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has been established under the Planning Act 2008 to grant development consent for schemes deemed as: nationally significant infrastructure projects NSIPs.
The IPC will enable decisions to be made about NSIPs fairer and faster. This is vital to the:
- Social Wellbeing
Previous to the IPC it could take an indefinite amount of time to reach decisions on planning applications for NSIPs; hence once the application gets to a decision stage the demand and/or importance of the proposed scheme may have changed and the amendment of the application would then be required, increasing the timescale further.
Aims of the New Infrastructure Planning Commission
- Simplify the planning process from red tape. (Before the IPC was introduced eight former consent regimes for NSIPs were used.)
- Provide better opportunities for the public, objectors, consultees and promoters of national infrastructure to present their evidence and explain their point of view.
- Apply independent professional and technical judgements on planning applications.
- Promote better planning and sustainable development to respond effectively to climate change.
- Reduce the time taken for decisions on major application to less than one year.
- Cut the overall cost of the planning system for national infrastructure by around £300million per year.
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Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects are large scale facilities that support the economy and vital public services. These include:
- Wind Farms
- Power Stations
- Sewage Treatment Works
- Modifications to existing infrastructure such as extending electrical cables to enhance the network or improving motorway junctions.
IPC Decision Making
The IPC has introduced a six step decision making plan. This consists of:
Before a planning application is received by the IPC the promoter must produce information about the proposed project. Wide consultation must take place with the people, business, sectors which will be affected by the proposals.
Acceptance by the IPC
A 28 day period is taken by the IPC to decide whether there has been effective consultation and if the proposal meets the required standards.
The IPC will hold preliminary meetings at this stage to assess a suitable timescale to progress with the application with regard to its importance and demand. Interested parties can register and be kept informed of developments as well to being involved in the process.
Public hearings will be held normally within a six month period with the IPC having six months to carry out an examination of the proposed scheme.
A decision on the proposal is issued within three months, with a statement of the reasons for acceptance/rejection of the proposal by the IPC.
Once the decision has been made there is a six week period for a legal challenge.
The Future of the New Infrastructure Planning Commission
- The IPC represents a milestone in the change to infrastructure planning which is long overdue according to many. Heathrow is one example commonly used for those backing the IPC that Terminal 5 took over 8 years of public enquiry before the application was accepted. Under the IPC that decision would have been made on a shorter timescale under their proposals.
- Concerns remain regarding the IPC as it is made up of unelected Commissioners who are unaccountable to the public and people who their decisions will affect.
- The Conservative Party have highlighted their intention to abolish the IPC and replace it with specially streamlined public inquiries focussing on material issues rather than matters of principle, if they gain power at the next election.
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