The Infrastructure Plan 2014 (NIP 14) was published on 2 December 2014, as part of the Build up to the chancellor's Autumn Statement.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Danny Alexander), in a Written Statement to Parliament (endnote 1) outlined the Government’s commitment to infrastructure in the build up to the last Budget for this Parliament, due in March 2015.
A summary of the new announcements in the NIP 14 in the Development sector is set out below:
NIP 14 records that the government intends to lay the National Networks National Policy Statement before Parliament in December 2014 for consideration and a formal vote.
Nationally significant infrastructure planning
NIP 14 records that feedback from industry suggested that there were further opportunities for improvement to the infrastructure consenting process. NIP 14 confirms that the government will be taking forward the changes it announced when it published its response to consultation on 'Streamlining the process for changing development consent orders'.
In summary the government will take forward work to:
- Bring more non-planning consents into the Development Consent Order regime, starting with three consents covering water discharge and trade effluent during this Parliament; the European Protected Species licence will be brought into the regime early in the new Parliament, once a legislative vehicle is identified, in a way that ensures robust decision making.
The government is currently working towards bringing flood defence consents into the environmental permitting framework next year, followed by water abstraction and impoundment licenses as soon as possible after that.
- Consult on options in 2015 for combining the two-stage process of making written and relevant representations into a single longer stage; this could make it easier for communities and others to engage with the regime and reduce the scope for duplication of effort.
- Create a more proportionate process for handling changes to Development Consent Orders, post consent, (through the Infrastructure Bill).
- Allow two inspectors for examinations instead of the current stipulation for one or three, which could save small schemes around £100,000 per application, (through the Infrastructure Bill).
- Allow for the appointment of the Examining Authority as soon as an application has been accepted, to make process more efficient, (through the Infrastructure Bill).
- Clarify guidance on the expectations for Preliminary Environmental Information and how to make changes to proposals during examinations.
The Government believes that the compulsory purchase regime would benefit from streamlining and updating. Proposals will be published for consultation at Budget 2015 to make processes clearer, faster and fairer, with the aim of bringing forward more brownfield land for development.
Town and country planning
NIP 14 states that government will take further measures to speed up the planning process including:
- Measures to ensure that the principle of development need only be established once, to give greater certainty and allow locally-supported development to proceed more quickly.
- Section 106 negotiations: taking steps to speed up section 106 negotiations, including revised guidance, consulting on a faster process for reaching agreement, and considering how timescales for agreement could be introduced, and improving transparency on the use of section 106 funds.
- Keeping the speed of decisions on major applications under review, with the minimum performance threshold increasing to 50% of major decisions on time as performance continues to improve.
The Written Statement (2 December 2014) also set out a number of housing and planning measures which are not referred to in the NIP 14 as follows:
- Public sector land: housing delivery - The government will set ambitious targets for the release of public sector land between 2015 and 2020. Government is committed to releasing land with capacity for up to 150,000 homes.
- Affordable housing: The government will extend affordable housing capital investment to 2018-19 and 2019-20, to ensure that 275,000 new affordable homes can be delivered over the next Parliament.
- Shared ownership: The government will work with housing associations, lenders and the regulator to identify and lift barriers to extending shared ownership, including a consultation on options for streamlining the process for selling on shared ownership properties.
- Housing Associations: The government will consult on ways to increase the borrowing capacity of housing associations in relation to the valuation of properties transferred from local authorities.
- Estates Regeneration: Budget 2014 announced a £150m fund to kick start the regeneration of social housing estates through repayable loans. Following a bidding round, Grahame Park, Blackwall Reach, Aylesbury Estate and New Union Wharf regeneration projects have all now been approved for funding, subject to due diligence and contract negotiations.
- Planning: small applications - The government will publish new data on Local Authorities’ performance in meeting their statutory duty to process smaller planning applications within 8 weeks.
- Planning: small sites - The government will work with industry and Local Authorities to test whether more can be done to support the approval of small sites in the planning system.