This is entry number 222, published on 10 March 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 (second) entry reports on further announcements about the merger of the IPC and the Planning Inspectorate.

In a surprise move, Greg Clark MP, decentralisation minister, has announced that Sir Michael Pitt, currently Chair of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), will become Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) on 1 April 2011, when the current incumbent Katrine Sporle, recently awarded a CBE, retires. The full written statement is here.

He will remain Chair of the IPC, until that is abolished, likely to be on 1 April 2012. His contract at PINS will be timed to end at the same time as his IPC contract, namely 30 April 2014. He currently works four days a week and will increase his hours. I imagine he will split his time equally rather than only taking one day a week to run PINS.

Transitional arrangements

Greg Clark has also announced that all current IPC Commissioners will stay in post under the new arrangements until at least September 2014. This will no doubt be of some relief to them.

Despite the establishment of a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit within PINS, it looks like Commissioners and planning Inspectors will become interchangeable after all. Greg Clark said "[The IPC Commissioners] will form part of a single group of professionals that will work across the whole range of applications and appeal casework that the Planning Inspectorate will consider". By the sound of it, then, the Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) will just refer to officers rather than examiners of applications.

Greg Clark also announced that the same individuals would continue to consider live applications at the time of transition: "I can confirm that major infrastructure applications in progress at the point of transition will be handled by the same individuals and that they will not be subject to any delay"

Funny that, because he said last week in rejecting my amendment to the Localism Bill seeking the same effect: "To require in statute the same person to continue the application when there will be changes to terms and conditions may create an impossibility because the post might have a different name". Oh well, at least the same end is being achieved.

This will be a great reassurance to potential applicants, and I hope that more applications will come forward over the next year as a result.

Finally, Greg Clark said "Developers can rest assured it will be business as usual during the transition with no unnecessary delays." I wonder what 'necessary delays' might be. Maybe he is referring to the additional three months that applications will take once National Policy Statements are in place, while the government makes a decision on an application. Sorry, couldn't resist.