While most people are busy anticipating the imminent demise of the Infrastructure Planning Commission, it’s jurisdiction will be extended from 6 April to include applications relating to large waste water treatment plants. Meanwhile, the Localism Bill proposes the abolition of the IPC, with the Secretary of State making decisions on Nationally Significant Infrastructure in the future.

Summary: The Government is bringing forward new regulations under the Planning Act 2008 that, from 6 April this year, will classify certain proposals for the construction or alteration of waste water treatment plants as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This change will affect all proposals for the construction of new facilities that will have a capacity exceeding a population equivalent of 500,000. Likewise any alteration to a plant that increases its capacity by more than a population equivalent of 500,000 is caught. The changes only apply in England.

The implication of this change is that local planning authorities will lose their jurisdiction over such projects, which will from 6 April be determined by IPC under the development consent regime.

The IPC was set-up under the Planning Act 2008 and is currently handling its first batch of applications. Under the Localism Bill, the IPC will be transferred into a new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit of the Planning Inspectorate and will no longer determine any development consent applications. Instead, it will report to the Secretary of State who will take the final decision on all applications himself.

Comment: The precise meaning of a 500,000 population equivalent requires reference to existing legislation but if proposals exceed this threshold, they will no longer face the challenges of securing consent for large infrastructure projects under localism. Instead, they will be subject to the development consent regime. This is likely to be welcomed by anyone promoting such projects, not least because the development consent is much more than a planning permission; it rolls many of the regulatory consents required for such facilities into a single application and can even include compulsory purchase powers in some circumstances.