This is entry number 275, published on 15 September 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 a speech given by Nick Clegg yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the government will speed up spending on 40 infrastructure projects at a speech at the London School of Economics yesterday.  It's not that often that either planning and infrastructure make it onto the national news agenda, but they are both currently enjoying a rare bout of national attention.

First, the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) grabbed the headlines for its advice to grant planning permission in the absence of local planning policies, with the government claiming that 'planning is the problem'.  Yesterday, Nick Clegg said that "Whitehall is part of the problem' when it comes to much-needed infrastructure projects being delivered on time and on budget.  His speech is here.

He has asked fellow Liberal Democrat cabinet member Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to identify 40 infrastructure projects that will be given 'new special priority status'.  Any one of those adjectives might have sufficed, but they are to get all three.  He did not give a date when the list of projects would be published, but he did give examples of ones that would feature:

  • high speed broadband rollout,
  • work to transform the efficiency of the national grid,
  • major improvements to the rail network, like Crossrail and Great Western electrification, and
  • projects to reduce congestion on the road network, targeting pinch points on the M1, the M25, and elsewhere.

Although principally involving the speedy spending of money on projects once it has been allocated, Nick Clegg said that the 'shepherding' of these 40 projects will also address 'whatever the problem is - regulation, procurement, funding, planning' as well. The extent to and method by which the projects will be shepherded by the government through the planning system may prove interesting.

The government has resisted calls to change course from cuts and austerity (Plan A) to kick-starting the economy through government spending (Plan B).  Although no new money was announced yesterday, there seems to be a glimmer not of Plan B exactly, but what is being described 'Plan A+'.  New and renewed infrastructure now appears to be seen by the government to be part of the route to economic recovery, and will do everything it can to encourage it - except spending money.