This is entry number 247, published on 3 June 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 new advice by the Infrasstructure Planning Commission.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has issued an eleventh advice note, for public bodies that are affected by applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects.  Although it is entitled 'Working with public bodies', it is aimed at them.

It is really only half an advice note - it is to be supplemented by a Part 2 that gives targeted advice to particular bodies, may contain high level agreements between the IPC and the body, and lists of consents, licences and authorisations that apply to the body.  That will certainly be very useful, not only for the public bodies themselves, but also project promoters.

Part 1 gives general advice - the general message to public bodies is 'please co-ooperate with developers' application preparations'.

Public bodies will be part of the project promoter's pre-application consultation and may also be asked by the IPC to assist it in producing a scoping opinion (i.e. the scope of the promoter's Environmental Statement).  These two consultations could overlap, and could each be as short as 28 days.  Nevertheless, consultees with related areas of responsibility are encouraged to co-ordinate their responses.

Reading some of the existing responses from public bodies to consultation on a scoping opinion, some express their concerns about the project rather than what environmental impacts should be assessed.  Only a few fully engage and give point by point responses to the promoter's suggested coverage.  This may change as the regime beds down, but public bodies are also battling with reduced resources and in some cases the threat of abolition altogether through the Public Bodies Bill (see Paul Thompson's blog on this subject).  Thus for the moment at least, the IPC and project promoters should not expect full engagement from many public bodies.

Having said that, the best time to engage under the new regime is before an application is made, as it is more difficult to change an application after it has been made.  I don't think that many public boides have got into this new mindset yet, thinking they can wait until the acpplication is made before they need to say their piece.

The note also covers other consents that public bodies may have to grant.  These will be helpfully specified in more detail in 'part 2', when it comes out, but meanwhile the advice note sets out that some consents can be included without reference to the original consenting body, and some can't.  It is silent on whether a consent that isn't explicitly mentioned in the Act or accompanying regulations can be included in a development consent order, which is an interesting question.

The timing of obtaining separate consents may be important although again more detail on this is to be set out in part 2.

So there we have it - a precursor to what is likely to be a very useful resource, given the vital importance of engagement between project promoters and public bodies.