This is entry number 35 of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today, 1 October 2009, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) opens for business. For the first five months of its existence it will be advisory only, assisting with proposed applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs). Then, from 1 March 2010, it will be compulsory to apply to it for authorisation for NSIPs in the areas of energy and transport.

The IPC can only give advice on making an application or making representations about an application or proposed application. It cannot advise on the merits of an application (i.e. whether it is likely to be granted or how to improve its chances of being granted). It is not clear whether ‘is my project an NSIP?’ is a question that the IPC can advise on, but one would hope it was.

The fact of giving advice about an application must be recorded by the IPC and published on its website. The following must be published: who asked for the advice, about what, in relation to which application and when the advice was given. There is no requirement to publish the contents of the advice given, but those seeking advice should be aware that certain details of it will be published – and, indeed, that the substance of the advice may also be published at some point.

Relationship with National Policy Statements

Note that these dates are independent of whether the relevant National Policy Statement (NPS) is in place or has even been published in draft for the type of project. NPSs are part of the new regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008 and form the policy background against which applications will be measured. Indeed, although the energy, ports and national networks NPSs are due to be published ‘this autumn’ (civil service speak for any time until 21 December, I think, but probably this month), the airports NPS is not even due to be published for another year.

Until the NPS has been approved (or ‘designated’), the IPC will consider applications and then report to the Secretary of State, who will take the decision. The IPC will have to use existing statements of policy as the context in which it reports. After the NPS has been designated the IPC will take the decision. If the NPS is designated during the consideration of an application, the IPC may still take the decision if the application has not progressed past its evidence-consideration stage, although this is not clear from the Act.

Fees

At the moment, there is no fee for seeking advice from the IPC, although there is a power to impose a fee in the Act. Even current draft fees regulations, which will come into force in March 2010 and impose quite high charges for the making and consideration of applications, do not mention fees for obtaining advice.

Contact details

Infrastructure Planning Commission contact details

Website www.infrastructure.communities.gov.uk

Phone number 0303 444 5000

Email address enquiries@infrastructure.gsi.gov.uk

Postal address Infrastructure Planning Commission

Temple Quay House

Temple Quay

Bristol

BS1 6PN