This is entry number 106, first published on 1 March 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 marks the date that the Infrastructure Planning Commission opens for most applications.

The Planning Act introduces a new regime for authorising applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects. From today, applications for 12 of the 16 types of NSIP listed in the Act must be made to the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). The 12 project types are all the energy and transport projects covered by the Act. Paraphrased in plain-ish English (and so not to be relied upon precisely) they are:

  • coal-fired, gas-fired, energy from waste, biomass and nuclear power stations with over 50MW potential output
  • onshore and offshore windfarms with over 50MW and 100MW potential output respectively
  • power lines carrying at least 132kV
  • gas storage, gas reception or LNG storage of at least 43m cubic metres or 4.5m cubic metres flow per day
  • gas pipelines of at least 800mm x 40km
  • other pipelines of at least 10 miles
  • highway projects relating to trunk roads or motorways
  • new airports of at least 10m annual passenger capacity or expansions of that size
  • new harbours able to handle 5m tonnes of cargo annually, 250,000 lorries or 500,000 containers (or a combination) or expansions of that size
  • railways that will be operated by Network Rail and would need a planning application
  • rail freight interchanges that cover at least 60 hectares

There are 11 in that list because I combined three (gas infrastructure) and split one (electricity generation). There is no alternative to going down the IPC route for these projects - the existing regimes under, for example, the Electricity Act, the Transport and Works Act, the Highways Act and the Ports Act now cannot be used. Indeed, it is now an offence to build one of these projects without having received permission under the Planning Act. Applications made before 1 March 2010 are excused - but I'm not sure that covers the things it is supposed to cover, see this previous blog entry.

The IPC has rejigged its project list and has published a map of its projects here. I reproduce the map with appropriate acknowledgement to the IPC and Google Maps.  

The original can be found here.

Today is not going to be the opening of the floodgates - the IPC expects to receive no applications in March, one on 1 April, one on 30 April and none in May. No public notices (which must give at least 28 days to respond to pre-application consultation) have yet been published for the 1 April application - a highway scheme in Kent - so I think we can safely say it will not be made on 1 April. There may be some as yet unknown project suddenly appearing out of the woodwork during that time - we shall see.

To be fair to the IPC, they are not going to be twiddling their thumbs for three months. They have been open for advice-giving since 1 October 2009 and this will continue. According to their records, they gave 26 pieces of advice in October 2009, 27 in November, 18 in December, 30 in January 2010, and 18 in February. They are also working on guidance, which the Act allows them to issue, and have issued two guidance notes so far.

The IPC cannot decide applications until the relevant National Policy Statement is in place, and even the most conservative estimate (Labour estimate, actually) puts the first of these at this summer or more likely autumn. If the Conservatives win the election then they are likely to do even more tinkering with them. In the meantime, applications must still made to the IPC, but the IPC only examines them and reports on them for the Secretary of State to decide them. Whether the IPC will ever actually decide an application is an interesting question.