This is entry number 277, published on 21 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 the publication of more Local Impact Reports.
Experience of the Planning Act regime is slowly growing as the first applications work their way through the process. One of the key documents, indeed the only project-specific document not produced by the applicant, that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) must take into account when it is considering an application is the 'Local Impact Report' (LIR). So far, these seem to be pronounced L.I.R. rather than lyre - or liar.
This can be produced by any of the local authorities that are either to host the proposed development or are the neighbours of one of the host authorities. Theoretically up to 40 LIRs could be produced for one project, but the reality is that few neighbouring authorities are likely to produce one.
The LIR contains the local authority's assessment of the impacts of the proposals on their area, although it is not intended to be a rival env.ironmental statement. It is probably the best place for a local authority to set out whether the project accords with its planning policies. The IPC's first advice note briefly deals with LIRs, asking that local authorities advise on the weight to be given to social, economic and environmental factors.
Until yesterday, only two such LIRs existed, both prepared in relation to Covanta Energy's proposed Rookery South energy from waste project in Bedfordshire. They were produced by the two host local authorities - for the project straddled the boundary between the two - Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. They were quite similar, indeed they were prepared by the same person, who had been engaged by the councils jointly. I blogged about these when they were published back in March.
Yesterday, three more LIRs hit cyberspace, all in relation to Covanta Energy's proposed Brig y Cwm energy from waste project near Merthyr Tydfil. The corpus of LIRs has therefore grown by 150% in one fell swoop.
This time, there is quite a variety in the LIRs, not least their lengths. As luck would have it, this proposal also straddles two local authority boundaries, and the two host local authorities have both submitted an LIR - Merthyr Tydfil, at 149 pages, and Caerphilly at 40 pages. For the first time, an authority that is not a host authority has submitted an LIR as well (Blaenau Gwent) although it weighs in at a mere three pages. Here are links to the new LIRs:
The three authorities all suggest that there are more negative impacts from the proposal than positive ones. Methyr Tydfil does not state in terms that it opposes the project, but lists four positive impacts, ten neutral and 31 negative ones. Caerphilly goes one step further and says that 'the negative impacts are much more important and should carry more weight in the decision making process'. Finally, Blaenau Gwent goes all the way and says 'the Council ... respectfully reqest that consent be refused'.
So far, then, it's 5-0 for LIRs weighing against rather than for projects. That's not too surprising, since in general the adverse impacts of a nationally significant infrastructure project are felt locally and the benefits are spread nationally.