This is entry number 160, first published on 3 September 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 publication of application documents on the IPC website.
The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has had a busy week, accepting its first application for examination and rejecting another. It has now published the documents for both for the application it accepted (an energy from waste plant near Bedford, known as Rookery South and promoted by Covanta Energy) and the one it rejected (a power line near Neath, known as Maesgwyn and promoted by Western Power Distribution) on its website. The documents can be found here and here respectively.
Over 80 documents are now available to view for each application, although quite a few of these relate to the pre-application stage or are post-application correspondence that did not form part of the application. Nevertheless this gives an idea of the amount of information that is required to be submitted.
I cannot claim to have been through every document, but here are some salient points.
The starting point is the application form. This sets out what was submitted and gives references for each accompanying document. The documents are listed in alphabetical order on the IPC website, usually using the titles the applicants gave to the documents, so it takes a little effort to match the documents to the form.
The IPC invited the host and neighbouring local authorities to make 'adequacy of consultation reports', setting out whether they considered that the applicants had adequately discharged their responsibilities to carry out pre-application consultation. It is not required to do so, but as I have said before local authorities would not otherwise know that the application had been made.
The level of response was mixed. Six authorities responded in the case of Rookery South (out of a possible 16). None objected, but two were somewhat grudging. One (out of six) responded in the case of Maesgwyn with a planning application acknowledgement letter (headed 'adequacy of consolation') saying it would get back to the IPC by 27 September (four weeks after the IPC had to decide whether to accept or reject the application).
The Rookery South documents include two 'objection letters' that have been sent before the official period for making them has started, which is triggered once the applicant publishes various public notices. We will see if these get included with the objections that were received at the proper time.
The consultation report for each application is provided (although a little difficult to find - the Rookery South one is called 'Report produced in accordance with section 37(3)(c) of the Planning Act 2008' and the Maesgwyn one is 'Consulation Report'). Covanta received over 350 responses via post, telephone and the internet to its various consultation activities between January and July of this year. In contrast, Western Power Distribution received no responses specifically to its public consultation, although it received 28 responses from direct consultees. Given that the project is small enough to be below the threshold for environmental impact assessment, this may not be that surprising.
The IPC has also taken the opportunity to revamp the projects part of its website, given that it now has 50 projects on its books. Projects are divided into regions, and then each has a page showing what stage it is at. The overall project table now has less information up front, with links to the project page. Developers' blushes will be spared as there is no longer a chronological list for delayed projects to slip down.