A blog about planning, planning law and planning policy

Disclaimer

The information on this blog is not intended to be advice, legal or otherwise. You should not rely on it and I do not accept liability in connection with it. If you do have a planning law question on which you would like advice, seek legal advice from a suitably qualified solicitor. Specific advice should be sought for specific problems.

Extending the scope of the Infrastructure Planning System

When the Planning Act 2008 was in preparation, it was always envisaged that it could be extended to other forms of development. Well the ministerial statement last week specifically contemplates that to speed up the system.  Eric Pickles said:

“…we now intend to review the thresholds for some of the existing categories in the regime, and also to bring new categories of commercial and business development into the regime – making it possible for such schemes, where they are of sufficient significance, to be considered and determined at a national level. We will also work to extend the principle of a one-stop-shop for non-planning consents for major infrastructure, and amend the Special Parliamentary procedures which apply to major infrastructure to ensure they are fit for purpose.”

To deal with the Special Parliamentary Procedure point first, this is an arcane safeguard, and I would encourage the Government to look at it generally. It is generally accepted that under the Planning Act 2008 it has created unforeseen difficulties.

Now to the intention of widening the Planning Act system not only by lowering the thresholds, but also by including more commercial and business development.  The system is now well under way, and beginning to be better understood. A small cadre of lawyers is familiar with it.  It is front loaded with technicality and procedure for the promoter.  And in my experience, it is not engaging with local authorities, or rather, local authorities are not engaging with it.  Understandably,   as they are not the decision making authority, they may see little point in becoming involved, a devoting scarce resources to it.

But how does this work with the localism agenda?  It is the centralisation of planning and we surely see here the move to removing major planning decisions from the hands of local authorities, and into the hands of the Secretary of State.  Yes, into his hands, because one of the first (and in my view correct) actions of the current Government was to amend the Planning Act so as to require the Secretary of State, rather than the technocratic IPC, to take the decision.  But as I said in my last post, why not just use the call in system, or at least use it while the necessary legislation is being put in place?

I suspect the  reason for not using call-in is that the Conservatives are haunted by the memory of the last Secretary of State who was not afraid to take decisions out of the hands of local authorities where he wanted to get the economy moving.  Here he is:

 

 

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