The Infrastructure Bill 2014 had its second reading in the House of Lords on the 18th June 2014 and is expected to come into force before the next general election. In the below, we highlight a couple of notable reforms which would be introduced by the Bill.
The Bill would enable the transformation of the Highways Agency into a government-owned company. A "strategic highways company" (or more than one such company) would be appointed as the highway authority for roads currently falling under the responsibility of the Secretary of State. The Bill provides for a Road Investment Strategy to be set for each company, specifying objectives to be achieved over a set time period and the financial resources for achieving those objectives. There will be a general power for financial resources to be provided and a transfer scheme allowing the transfer of assets from the government to the strategic highways company.
The Bill also introduces a mechanism for certain types of planning conditions to be deemed to be discharged if the LPA has not notified the applicant of their decision under the condition within a set time period. The Secretary of State may provide in a development order that the period of time for the LPA's decision can be extended by agreement between the LPA and the applicant. The LPA and the applicant can also agree, before or after the grant of planning permission, that the deemed discharge provisions do not apply to certain conditions. The change would mean that the LPA would not be able to stop development on the basis that the scheme did not have formal approvals required by certain conditions. It has been argued by proponents of this measure that it will reduce unnecessary delays and costs in bringing forward development, although there is concern over an increased burden on local authorities.