This is entry number 215, published on 14 February 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry reports on new advice issued by the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has issued eight advice notes over the last few months on various aspects of the Planning Act regime. It is now dividing its eighth advice note on making objections into five, and has just published its ninth advice note, on the subject of environmental assessment.

Forthcoming advice notes are also promised on habitats assessments and transboundary effects, but here is a summary of the newly-issued documents.

Advice on making objections

There used to be a single advice note 8 entitled 'how to have your say', but the IPC has seen fit to divide this into five advice notes, numbered 8.1 to 8.5, addressing the various stages of public participation in an application.

Advice note 8.3 has been published so far, and is the one most closely corresponding to the original advice note 8. It is entitled 'how to register and make a written representation'. Somewhat hidden in the regulations supporting the Planning Act is the concept of having to register to make a representation. The advice note confirms that registration is necessary and can only be done during the representation period, which may be as short as 28 days. The note does not mention that the IPC encourages representations to be no more than 500 words, given that there will be a chance to submit a fuller written representation later.

The other 'series 8' advice notes will be:

  • 8.1: How the process works – opportunities to be involved
  • 8.2: How to have your say on a major infrastructure proposal – The developer’s consultation  
  • 8.4: How an application will be examined by the IPC – The Preliminary Meeting  
  • 8.5: Putting your case on an application to the IPC – the examination process  

I was sent a copy of the last one with the note of the Rookery South preliminary meeting that I attended last month, and can forward it on request to anyone who is interested, although its publication on the IPC website is no doubt imminent.

Advice on environmental assessment

Advice note 9 is entitled 'Using the Rochdale envelope'. This is not advice on using stationery, but on how you environmentally assess a project that still has various options to be decided.

The term derives from two related court cases that were considered in 1999-2000 - R v Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council ex parte Tew and Milne and R v Rochdale MBC ex parte Milne.

In a nutshell, the correct approach is that you should assess the worst case scenario of each option, so that whatever options are eventually chosen, the project will have no worse environmental effects than have already been assessed. What you mustn't do is assess a 'typical' or 'indicative' project that is a sort of average of what you might choose, which is where the Rochdale project came unstuck.

As the advice note says, it may not be the case that the collective impact of different areas (e.g. noise, visual) will be the sum of the worst cases of each individual impact, since if some are greater, others may necessarily be less. On the other hand, there could be significant impacts that emerge only when individual impacts are considered together.

On assessing cumulative effects (i.e. the effect of the project in question together with other projects in the area), the note suggests that projects under construction, permitted, submitted for approval or appearing in development plans should be included. It also says that projects on the IPC's programme should be considered.

In terms of the development consent order (DCO), the advice note suggests that it could specify ranges for the development that is permitted. It gives offshore wind farms as an example and suggests that maxima and minima could be specified for the number of turbines, their height and their separation. It does not deal with the issue of alternative locations - can a DCO authorise development in one location or another, but not both?

The issuing of further advice notes is to be welcomed given the reluctance of promoters to seek advice that will then be published on the IPC's advice log. I'm sure that the IPC would welcome suggestions for further advice note topics.