This is entry number 103, first published on 23 February 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. For more information on our work on major projects, click here.
Today's entry reports on the publication of the long-awaited 'shadow green paper' on planning by the Conservative Party.
A link to the paper, entitled Open Source Planning (very Web 2.0), is here. It was expected last autumn, then before Christmas, then around Christmas, then very early in the new year, and finally on very good authority, 15 February. It came out yesterday.
So what does the paper say about the new regime under the Planning Act? The previous line was: the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to be abolished, the government to recover decision-making for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) and a Parliamentary vote on National Policy Statements (NPSs) to be introduced. Oh, and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to be scrapped.
The headline news is that the Planning Act regime is to be largely retained. New Civil Engineer goes as far as saying that this is a Tory climbdown and the IPC is here to stay but under a new name - I wouldn't go quite that far.
The paper says that it will indeed abolish the IPC, but will retain its expertise in a 'Major Infrastructure Unit' as part of a revised government department that will include the Planning Inspectorate.
'Very major' linear schemes will use hybrid and private Bills in Parliament, and the remainder will be decided by short and focused planning inquiries carried out by the MIU and run by senior planning inspectors. The Secretary of State will make the final decision on these.
The Tories would create a National Planning Framework (there is already one in Scotland, incidentally) that would be a 'simple and consolidated framework that will set out not only what the government's economic and enviornmental priorities are, but how they relate to each other'. This would be subject to a vote in Parliament and would have the NPSs integrated into it.
Instead of CIL, they will introduce 'a single unified local tariff applicable to all residential and non-residential development (even a single dwelling), but at graded rates depending on the size of the development'. SULT does not appear that different from CIL, in fact.
How much of this will be able to be implemented without primary legislation, for which there will no doubt be many competing priorities? The approval of NPSs by Parliament would not need legislation (although I note in passing that introducing this might be counter-productive if there were a hung Parliament). The recovery of decision-making on applications would not need primary legislation either - the ability to do this is already built into the Act. The rest will probably have to wait.
If the Tories win, it will be interesting to see whether there will be any window between the first NPS being designated and the IPC losing its decision-making powers. If not, then the IPC will never make a decision.