Today's entry reports on two further advice notes issued by the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is the body charged with examining and potentially deciding applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects until its replacement in April 2012 by the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit.

Over the last few months it has been issuing a series of advice notes covering various subjects relating to the new authorisation regime. They have recently issued their sixth and seventh advice notes, covering the preparation and submission of documents and screening and scoping for environmental impact assessment. The advice on document preparation is quite detailed and well worth reading to avoid annoying the IPC. The advice on EIA is more general but contains one or two nuggets, e.g. pre-notification of a scoping opinion application.

Links to the full set of advice and other notes can be found on the 'all the links' blog entry here.

Advice note 6: preparation and submission of documents

The advice note is here. The main document that is submitted when making an application is not surprisingly the application form itself. The IPC has set up quite a cool 'interactive' application form on its website (here) that has fields for you to type in the entries, displays the corresponding government guidance for each field when you click on a '?', and checks the application by clicking a button at the end. This is all done in a PDF file - although it needs at least version 8 of Adobe Acrobat to work. Three paper copies of the application form and ten electronic copies (but on media rather than emailed) are to be sent to the IPC.

The application form will be accompanied by a mass of other documents in support of it. The advice note sets out a suggested order that these documents should be provided in, in nine categories:

  • plans, drawings and sections;
  • reports and statements;
  • EIA and habitats information;
  • compulsory acquisition information;
  • photographs;
  • other media (e.g. physical models);
  • additional information for specific types of information (seven types of project have additional requirements); and of course
  • any other document not listed above.

Applicants are asked to obtain a document index from the IPC before compiling the application suite. I'm not quite sure what this will look like, but it will no doubt allow for some consistency across applications and ensure that nothing is left out. IPC guidance (which you must explain if you don't follow it, so stricter than just advice) states that documents should be accompanied by summaries of up to 1500 words or 10% of the size of the original.

Plans, documents and photographs should give: the scheme name, their title, a reference number, a date of production and a schedule of revisions. Locations where photographs and the type of lens used should be provided. Plans should be no larger than A0 and at a scale no smaller than 1:2500 (although perhaps 1:20 for particular details), and should show where north is. Scale bars should be included and key dimensions and measurements should be shown. Sequenced plans or drawings of linear schemes should have a key plan.

There is further advice on document formatting. Documents should have referencing information: page numbers, a title page identifying the project, a date of revision, the author and the regulation paragraph letter under which the document is required. Two-sided printing should be used. Documents longer than two pages should have a table of contents. Glossaries should be used, and for larger documents, bibliographies. The font should be at least 12 point and recognisable and clear such as Arial or Verdana. References to other documents should be to the relevant passage, not the whole document. Video or audio information should not be used. Appendices can be used if the contents are relevant - the IPC seems to think that there is a habit of bunging in irrelevant appendices.

For applications in Wales, a Welsh version is strongly recommended.

Environmental Impact Assessment screening and scoping

The advice note is here. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is the process by which larger projects are assessed for their likely effects on the environment and how these will be mitigated by the project promoter. The main document is the promoter's Environmental Statement (ES) (often confused with EIA, which is the process, not a document), which sets out what impacts the promoter thinks there will be and how it proposes to deal with them.

The IPC has two roles before an application is submitted - it can decide for a promoter whether EIA is required (screening), and it can advise what the ES should contain (scoping). Note that unlike in other areas, for Planning Act projects the promoter can't decide for itself that EIA is not required, only that it is required. Screening is therefore compulsory for non-EIA projects, but scoping is voluntary.

For screening opinion applications, the IPC recommends that promoters set out the characteristics of the development, the location of the development and the characteristics of likely impacts, plus a drawing and description of the land within the site boundary, photographs of the site and sensitive receptors, a drawing showing planning constraints (e.g. environmentally sensitive areas, national parks historic landscapes) in the area and OS grid references for the site or ends or route corridors. Promoters should be prepared for the IPC to make a site visit during the 21 days it has to issue its opinion.

For scoping opinion applications, the IPC asks that promoters give them at least two weeks' notice before the application is made so that they can identify the consultees - the notice should include the 'red line' boundary of the site. Most applications will be accompanied by a 'scoping report', which is effectively the applicant's own scoping opinion. Six hard copies and one CD-ROM copy should be provided of this. If any European (protected nature) sites are likely to be affected, the promoter should also provide sufficient information for the IPC to carry out 'appropriate assessment' (the formal process for deciding the effect on European sites and what to do about it).