This is entry number 95, first published on 5 February 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry reports on the Infrastructure Planning Commission's critique of the seven draft National Policy Statements.

Seven National Policy Statements (NPSs) were issued in draft on 9 November and are nearing the end of their consultation period (15 Feb (ports), 22 Feb (energy)). These will be used by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) from 1 March to consider, and when the relevant NPS is finalised, decide applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Sir Mike Pitt, Chair of the IPC, appeared before the Transport Select Committee of the House of Commons on 27 February and the Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Select Committee on 3 February, to be reported once the transcripts are available. The IPC has also published its written response to the draft Ports NPS (here) and energy NPSs (here).

Essentially, the IPC is happy with the drafts, but, perhaps to demonstrate its independence from the government, has suggested some 'areas for improvement', summarised as follows.

They would like policy separated from discussion, perhaps by being put in shaded boxes (rather like local authority development plans).

The drafts use language that 'creates tension with' (i.e. expresses in slightly different wording from) the Planning Act, such as paragraph 4.1.1. of EN-1, which summarises the things the IPC should take into account.

The NPSs' different ways of expressing the IPC taking something into account should be standardised to avoid arguments about differences in meaning.

The NPSs overstate the importance of some evidence they refer to - it should all be in the mix considered by the IPC, who will decide what weight to give it.

The IPC echoes many environmental groups who gave evidence to the ECC Select Committee in calling for it to be able to take into account the wider carbon footprint of a project.

Some roles given to the IPC are more properly for applicants, e.g. para 4.18.15 of EN-1 - 'the IPC should maximise opportunities [for building in biodiversity features]'.

The NPSs should say more about design (given that it is a requirement in the Planning Act) - what components applicants should mention and from whom the IPC should seek advice.

EN-1 should say more about the IPC's role in Wales and Scotland.

EN-1 should be clearer on what the IPC should do about security considerations.

EN-1 should say more about the assessment of socio-economic impacts.

EN-3 should be more explicit about the circumstances when renewable energy projects could be authorised in the Green Belt.

The IPC doesn't like the decision tree for dealing with Electric and Magnetic Fields from electric lines in EN-5 and says it is inconsistent with the text.

The Ports NPS should say more about intermodal freight facilities, linking with the forthcoming National Networks NPS.

The Ports NPS should clarify its wording in serveral places: at paragraphs 2.1.1, 2.2.2, 2.3.4, 2.4.4, 2.9.1, 2.13.9 and 2.15.7.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which the government takes heed of the IPC's views (if we ever find out, given the forthcoming election).