The Infrastructure Bill was given Royal Assent on 12 February 2015 and the Infrastructure Act 2015 is now law. The new legislation has been devised to streamline the Planning Act 2008 and Town and Country Planning Act 1990 regimes. It is envisaged that the delivery of infrastructure will now be faster and more efficient, consistent with the Government’s long-term plan for driving investment and getting Britain building.
There are a number of eye catching provisions in the new legislation. The Government will create a Government owned subsidiary company called Highways England to take over the responsibility for strategic roads from the Highways Agency. Highways England will have greater access to long-term funding and more accountability to Parliament than the Highways Agency currently enjoys.
There will also be a simplification of the process for making post-consent changes to Development Consent Orders (material and non-material) for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. Two panel inspectors will be available for appointment to the Examining Authority immediately after an application for a DCO is accepted by the Planning Inspectorate.
For schemes in respect of which planning permission is granted post 12 February 2015, a new provision for "deemed discharge" of certain planning conditions will be introduced in circumstances where a local planning authority has failed to respond to an application within a prescribed period. Secondary legislation will follow with further detail on this process.
Other aspects of the new Act include: a new right to use land to exploit petrol or deep geothermal energy without notifying owners; greater powers for the HCA and GLA to assemble land for disposal with powers to override certain restrictions and easements; and the transfer of responsibility for the registration of local land charges from local authorities to the Land Registry. In the case of a s106 agreement, for example, the originating authority will apply to the Land Registry for registration of the s106 as a local land charge.