This is entry number 27 of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

The government has published a booklet ‘Infrastructure Planning: How will it work? How can I have my say?’ on public involvement in infrastructure planning. It is short – eight pages – and summarises how the public can get involved at three points in the process towards approving a nationally significant infrastructure project:

  • when National Policy Statements (NPSs) are consulted upon;
  • when promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects consult before making their application; and
  • when the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) considers the application.

This is the start of what will be a tough job for the government to create public interest in NPSs. It is very difficult to generate interest in policies – usually only once an application has been made do people start to be interested. Under the new system, though, the setting of policy in an NPS will be half the battle towards getting a project approved. If a subsequent application is in accordance with the policy in an NPS, it will be granted unless it is contrary to law, or, the key test is met: ‘the adverse impacts outweigh the benefits’. In the absence of any applications, then, the public will have to imagine all the infrastructure that could be built locally as a result of the NPS and use that consultation exercise to limit the scope for harmful developments.

The booklet makes reference to consulting Planning Aid and Planning Aid London. Alas, although they remembered to add Planning Aid Wales to their guidance on pre-application consultation, they have forgotten to add it here.

The booklet also mentions the website that one should keep tabs on to follow the development of NPSs: www.direct.gov.uk/infrastructureplanning. Keep tabs on this blog, though, and you will not only get news that is just as up to date, but interpretation and comment too.

It will be interesting to see how widely the government use this booklet and what other ways it comes up with to raise public awareness of NPSs in the run up to the publication of the first eight in draft this autumn.