This is entry number 24 of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today, the Department of Communities and Local Government has issued three sets of guidance on the new Planning Act regime. These are the final versions following the consultation exercise on the ‘second tranche’ of regulations and guidance that was carried out between 30 March and 19 June this year. Updated regulations corresponding to the guidance will be issued ‘shortly’.

The guidance is on:

Pre-application consultation

This guidance is about the extensive new duty to consult widely before making an application, and to take the results of the consultation into account when deciding what application to make. It covers who should be consulted, how, when and what the consultation should consist of.

The guidance has been expanded since the draft version went out to consultation, but there is little that has been added that is significant enough to alter the effect of the guidance.

  • One new ‘principle’ of the consultation has been added: ‘it may identify ways in which the project could, without significant costs to promoters, support wider strategic or local objectives’.
  • There is more explaining what the ‘vicinity’ of an application is.
  • There is additional advice on dealing with the project changing significantly from the options consulted upon – further consultation should be undertaken.
  • A couple of new items that the consultation should include have been added: information sufficient for the consultee to assess the impacts of the proposals on their area of interest (with particular reference to the strategic road network), and details of any land being offered in exchange for land being acquired.
  • There is mention of the Infrastructure Planning Commission’s (IPC’s) acceptance of applications.
  • Finally, there are a couple of flowcharts added, showing the process if there is one consultation stage or more. These look rather like the ones in our book on the Planning Act, which is reassuring.  

The application form

This guidance is on how to fill out the complicated form that is contained in one of the regulations. The changes to the guidance herald changes that are about to be made to the form, which will be somewhat longer – going from 22 to 25 boxes.

  • The multitude of plans have been boiled down to two essential ones – a land plan and a works plan – with other plans as optional extras.
  • A new box has been added for ‘associated development’ that is included with the application.
  • The requirement to include all consultation responses has been reduced to just including ‘details’ of them, which should reduce the paperwork considerably.
  • Certification that the consultation has been publicised properly has also been removed.
  • The environmental impact assessment details have been rejigged, and again full consultation responses need not be supplied, but the applicant must confirm that it notified the right consultation bodies.
  • The plan on the effect on rights of way has been changed to one identifying new or altered means of access.
  • The plan of nature and heritage sites has been divided into two plans.
  • There are new boxes on mitigating likely nuisance and on Crown land.  

Perhaps the most significant change in any of the three sets of guidance is that in preparing the application, one must look at the corresponding National Policy Statement (NPS), which may specify additional matters that should be addressed in an application. This gives a hint that NPSs will be more specific than might have been thought.

Associated development and ancillary matters

This is guidance on what can be included in an application other than the part that is a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). This guidance has hardly changed at all. The list of associated development for particular NSIPs has been added to for two of them:

  • generating stations, to which substations and overhead/underground lines has been added, and
  • airports, to which freight forwarding and temporary storage, piers and airside buildings and helipad relocation has been added. A consultee was clearly worried about their helipad.  

The new regime for preparing applications for major infrastructure is beginning to take shape - as it must if applications are to start to be made to the IPC by the target date of 1 March 2010.