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Planning: Infrastructure Planning Commission

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government will publish the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan shortly. This will set out the UK’s approach to becoming a sustainable-advanced low-carbon country, which means cutting our emissions, securing our energy supplies, maximising economic opportunities and protecting the most vulnerable. The new development consent regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) provided for by the Planning Act 2008 is central to delivering the development needed to meet these objectives. Today I can confirm that the new regime will be put in place starting from 1 October with the establishment of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Earlier this year we made a commitment to listen to the views of promoters and others on the best way to implement the new regime and to provide further detail on both implementation of the regime and production of national policy statements (NPSs). The consistent message that has emerged from this is the need for certainty and predictability. People want clarity about when the new regime will consider applications from each sector and an adequate lead-in period between setting up the IPC and commencing the regime. Therefore, I am today announcing more detail on how we propose to implement the new regime.

First, I can confirm that we will establish the IPC from 1 October, from which date it will begin providing advice and guidance on preparing applications, and on how the new regime will work. I can also confirm that the IPC will start accepting applications for development consent and examining these applications from 1 March 2010, when we intend to commence the new regime for NSIPs from the energy and transport sectors. Our intention is to then bring waste water and hazardous waste sectors on line in April 2011, and the water supply sector in April 2012. Setting firm implementation dates now will ensure that promoters and other stakeholders will be able to engage with the IPC with confidence.

Secondly, I am proposing to appoint Dr Pauleen Lane CBE and Robert Upton CBE as deputy chairs of the IPC. These appointments, which are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, will enable the IPC to be ready to open for business on 1 October. I will also be appointing three commissioners to the IPC later this month.

Finally, I am publishing the third and final package of secondary legislation needed to establish the IPC. This sets out the detailed procedures and rules which we intend to put in place to govern the IPC examination of applications. We will make these regulations in good time to come into force by 1 March 2010.

Once NPSs are designated the IPC will decide applications for development consent in accordance with them. However, the IPC will be able to start receiving applications from the energy and transport sectors from 1 March 2010, irrespective of whether the relevant NPS has been designated. If for any reason the relevant NPS has not been designated when a particular application reaches the decision stage, the IPC would make a recommendation to the relevant Secretary of State, who would then take the decision. In this situation, the Planning Act allows the Secretary of State a maximum of three months to make the decision, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Our intention is to keep any recommending period to a minimum. Where a relevant NPS has been published in draft it would be a consideration for the IPC when making its report and recommendation to Ministers.

I can also update the House on our latest intentions for publishing draft NPSs. The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, which we are publishing shortly, brings together a range of important policy developments including the renewable energy strategy and proposals for regulating new coal power stations, and has significant implications for energy and transport policy which it is vital the NPSs fully reflect. Because of this, our intention is now to publish NPSs covering the following types of infrastructure in the autumn: nuclear power; renewable energy; electricity networks; fossil fuel generation; oil and gas infrastructure; ports; and road and rail networks. Subject to the outcome of public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, we expect these NPSs to be designated over the course of next year.

The remaining four NPSs are being produced on a longer timeframe. We expect to consult on the waste water NPSs in spring 2010 and the hazardous waste NPS in summer 2010, with the aim of designating them in 2011. We intend to consult on the airports NPS by 2011 with a view to designating it later that year. Finally we hope to consult on the water supply NPS in late 2010—once the final water resource management plans are published, which are needed to inform the NPS—with the aim of designating that NPS by early 2012.

In parallel with making this Statement, I am publishing a revised version of the IPC Implementation Route Map which sets out our plans in more detail, as well as providing an update on progress to date. I am placing copies of this in the Library of the House.

The new regime which we are establishing will enable decisions about nationally significant infrastructure to be taken in a way that is fairer and faster. This is vital to our economic, environmental and social well- being, including meeting the challenge of climate change, strengthening the voice of communities and individuals, and creating the conditions for future economic success.