This is entry number 229, published on 1 April 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today’s entry reports on an airports policy consultation, Thames Tunnel changes and our masterclass on the Planning Act regime.

Airports policy

On Wednesday, the government issued a consultation paper on airport policy. This is its substitute for an Airports National Policy Statement, which it has said will no longer be produced, largely because the main projects it was likely to apply to, new runways in south east England, will not now go forward.

The document is entitled Developing a sustainable framework for UK aviation: Scoping document. It is eventually intended to replace the current expression of airports policy which is contained in the 2003 White Paper the Future of Air Transport. The sound bite in the accompanying press release is 'greener growth', i.e. there should be growth as long as it is not too environmentally damaging. The policy will all depend on what 'too' means. This scoping document does not give any answers, it is more or less a description of the issues and an invitation to comment on them, effectively a new Year Zero for aviation policy.

The consultation runs until 30 September 2011. The actual policy framework will be published in draft in March 2012, with a view to being adopted in March 2013, the tenth anniversary of the white paper. Whether the framework will contain policy or just be the structure within which policy is subsequently developed remains to be seen. In any case the government does not appear to be in a great hurry on this issue.

Thames Tunnel

Yesterday, Thames Water produced its report on the consultation it held from September 2010 to January this year on its proposed 'super sewer' that will run beneath the Thames and collect raw sewage before it goes into the river, which is unfortunately where much of it goes at the moment after heavy rain. This project will be brought within the Planning Act regime when either a planning application is made or the Localism Bill is enacted, whichever is earlier.

The controversial aspect of the project is not the main tunnel, but that several sites on or near the river will be used for temporary works and permanent infrastructure. In order to keep these away from development, Thames Water had chosen several green spaces. There has been quite a lot of press coverage of various celebrities defending the spaces concerned.

A summary report can be found here, and there is a longer main report on this page Thames Water received responses from 2,866 individuals and organisations.

The headlines are that Thames Water are sticking to the principle of the project and to their preferred option of a route running mostly under the river from Hammersmith to Temple Mills in Newham. However, they cannot be accused of ignoring the consultation responses, since they are considering making changes to, by my count, nine of the surface sites. Here is a quick summary:

  • Carnwath Road Riverside may be used instead of part of the Barn Elms site;  
  • the Bell Lane Creek site may be moved to a site yet to be determined;  
  • the Jews Row site may not be needed;  
  • the Bridges Court Car Park site may be moved to York Gardens;  
  • the Druid Street site may not be needed;  
  • the King's Stairs Gardens site may be moved to Chambers Wharf;  
  • the Butcher Row site may not be needed;  
  • the alignement of the Greenwich Pumping Station and Deptford Storm Relief tunnels may be changed; and  
  • the Borthwick Wharf Foreshore site may be moved to a site yet to be determined.

A second consultation will take place starting in September this year. This will have details of any changes that were in fact made as a result of the first consultation.

Masterclass and Brig y Cwm update

Bircham Dyson Bell gave a 'masterclass' on the Planning Act regime yesterday, where delegates were also addressed by Helen Adlard, Director of Legal Services at the IPC, Cllr Mike Haines of the LG Group (formerly the Local Government Association) and Neil Cameron QC. I would have advertised it on the blog but the places filled up before I got around to it. Blog subscribers did get invited though - special privileges to those who allow me to fill up their inboxes. It was good to meet some of you for the first time. We hope to hold another event in the near future.

This masterclass contrasted with one we gave last year by being aimed at local authorities and other stakeholders rather than project promoters. Thus it focused on understanding applications, how to engage with them and make effective representations, Local Impact Reports and protective provisions. We covered the pre-application process, the examination of applications, both of which finally have some real experience to draw on, and the often-neglected area of what happens after an application is approved (knowledge of which can inform the preparation of the application and the framing of effective representations). There is a lot to take in, but at least the same process applies to the wide range of projects covered by the Act, and it will be largely unaffected, but somewhat improved, by the Localism Bill.

It turns out that the figure I gave this week of 7000 objections to the Brig y Cwm energy from waste project was an underestimate - the IPC has received 10,000 and counting. And to think that 1000 seemed a lot at the time for the Rookery South application. I was also chided for giving credit to the IPC for its 'outreach' programme, for it was the locals rather than the IPC who gave most publicity to the application. I still give the IPC some of the credit, though.