This is entry number 173, first published on 7 October 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 start of the first objection period for an application submitted to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

Only yesterday I was writing that after nearly six weeks the promoter of the first application accepted by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) had not yet advertised that fact and started the objection period running. I cannot claim to have spurred them into action as they must have submitted copy to the Times before yesterday, but coincidentally today they have now done so.

The first application for a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) made to the IPC - for a 65MW energy from waste project in Bedfordshire, known as the Rookery South Resource Recovery Facility (RRF), being promoted by Covanta Energy - has started its objection period today, by publishing notices that the application has been accepted.

These notices come exactly six weeks after the IPC accepted the application. As I mentioned yesterday, there is no particular time limit for this stage, and promoters will be balancing moving quickly with being ready to relinquish control of the timetable to the IPC and the provisions of the Planning Act. Finally, after seven months of waiting, the full IPC process can now swing into action for the first time.

Notices published

Notices must be published in a national newspaper - in this case the Times - the London Gazette and a local newspaper (twice). You'll have to pay to see the online version of the Times notice these days, or pay £1 for a traditional copy, but the London Gazette notice can be found here: page 1 page 2.

If you want a hard copy of the suite of application documents you'll have to fork out £1800, but a DVD can be obtained for £15. The documents are also all online on the IPC website here. Not on the IPC website but on Covanta's own website is a handy 'signpost document' that sets out what all the application documents are, which can be found here. Finally, the documents can be inspected in hard copy free of charge at various libraries and other venues set out in the gazette notice.

Objection procedure

To be able to make an objection - or representation in support - you must be registered on the IPC website. The requirement that representations must be made on a 'registration form' is buried in the regulations dealing with application procedures. The IPC encourages online registration, but you can phone them (or I suppose write to them if you are particularly low-tech) for a paper version. The online registration form is here. The box for the representation itself is limited to 500 words, but is intended to be a 'brief summary' of the representation. Note however, that when asked to expand on this later, you cannot introduce new topics that weren't in the summary.

The form asks if you want to attend a compulsory purchase hearing, open floor hearing or issue specific hearing, the three types of hearing that can be held during the examination period. Although the Planning Act discourages oral evidence, ticking the 'open floor hearing' box requires one to be held, so it is not hard to reverse the presumptoin. The question about the third type is rather difficult to answer since it is up to the IPC to decide what issues there should be issue-specific hearings on, and you will not know these yet.

The form asks if you wish to attend the preliminary meeting - this is not binding and you will be invited anyway, but is to gauge numbers.

The objection period closes on 19 November, giving 43 days to make representations (the minimum being 28 days from the last notice, which will be in a week's time). Adding an extra eight days is considered generous in these matters!

The next step is the holding of the preliminary meeting, which is recommended to take place about six weeks later, but since that is New Year's Eve, it will probably be mid-January 2011.