The Government is proposing to bring some ‘business and commercial’ projects that are nationally significant within the Planning Act 2008 regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects. From later in 2013 the proposals would allow developers to apply directly to the Secretary of State for a consent decision that must then be made within a fixed timescale.

WHAT TYPES OF BUSINESS AND COMMERCIAL PROJECTS?

Subject to the outcome of consultation, the proposals will apply to the following categories of development within the defined thresholds:

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If a project is within these categories and thresholds the developer would have the option of applying to the Secretary of State for a direction (known as a section 35 direction) that the project should be considered under the regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects under the Planning Act 2008. A section 35 Direction would mean that the Secretary of State, rather than the local planning authority, will be responsible for deciding if the project should be given permission.

WHEN IS A BUSINESS OR COMMERCIAL PROJECT NATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT?

The Secretary of State will only give a section 35 direction if he is satisfied that the business or commercial project is nationally significant. The Secretary of State will decide on a case-bycase basis whether a business or commercial project is nationally significant. Developers will need to provide reasons in support of this view. This will involve factors such as:

  • the physical scale of the project;
  • the location and possible impacts of the project, particularly if it has significant effects beyond its immediate locality or gives rise to cross-boundary or national controversy; and
  • the potential economic impact of the project.

DECISIONS UNDER THE PLANNING ACT 2008 REGIME

If a section 35 direction is given for a business or commercial project, the developer will then follow the procedure for obtaining ‘development consent’ under the Planning Act 2008. This involves a period of pre-application consultation, followed by an application which is examined by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of DCLG. A decision must then made by the Secretary of State within six months of the end of the examination period.