This is entry number 80, first published on 6 January 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to receive blog updates by email, click here.

Today's entry is a continuation from Monday's, and sets out the situations when a large group of local authorities must be contacted.

The Planning Act imposes requirements on the government, promoters and the IPC to consult or notify not only the local authorities in which a project is situated, but also those that share a border with them. Given that a project could be in a district, county and National Park all at the same time, this means that an average of 17 councils must be contacted (I've counted them) with a maximum of 39 involved for a single-site project. If a project crosses local authority boundaries it could be even more. Not sure which councils to contact?

There are five main occasions when this larger group is involved.

  • First, if a National Policy Statement (NPS) names sites as suitable or potentially suitable for development, then the wider set must be consulted on how to publicise the NPS locally. This applies to the Nuclear NPS of those published so far, and is expected to apply to the Airports NPS as well. Watch out for a Planning Magazine investigation into the extent this was done for the Nuclear NPS.
  • Secondly, those in the wider set of authorities must each be consulted before an application for a project can be made, as part of the extensive pre-application consultation requirements. Missing one could mean getting the application thrown out by the IPC for inadequate consultation.
  • Thirdly, if any of them were not satisfied that the pre-application consultation was carried out properly (or if they were satisfied), they can submit an ‘adequacy of consultation report’ to the IPC complaining about it (or supporting it).
  • Fourthly, and most importantly, they can submit a Local Impact Report – LIR (‘liar’?) on the impact that the authority reckons the project will have on its area. This will be each authority’s chance to inform the IPC of the project’s compliance with its development plan policies and the mitigation it suggests, amongst other things.
  • Finally, the wider group of authorities are also ‘interested parties’ for the purposes of the Act, so the IPC must invite them all to the preliminary meeting, tell them of any procedural decisions it makes, hold an open floor hearing if they request one, and allow their representatives to speak at specific-issue and open floor hearings.

That concludes the investigation into the number of local authorities that will be involved in assessing a nationally significant infrastructure project. It may not be the last you will hear, however, of whether the government should support local authorities financially for their increased number and increased role, or whether the government fulfilled the first duty outlined above. Both issues were triggered by this blog but have been taken up by others.