This is entry number 107, first published on 2 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 reports on the decision to bring the Thames Tunnel project within the Planning Act regime.

The Planning Act introduces a new regime for authorising major infrastructure projects. From yesterday, applications for energy and transport projects above a size threshold must be made to the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). The Planning Act sets thresholds for waste and water projects as well, but does not include a sewer as a project type. Nevertheless it is open the Secretary of State to direct that a project that is either not of a listed type or is listed but is below the size threshold be considered by the IPC.

The Thames (Tideway) Tunnel project is the significant construction by Thames Water of a sewer underneath the Thames, running along its length from Hammersmith to Beckton.

Regular readers of this blog were (of course) already advised that this might happen back in January (see this entry), but now it's official - the government announced in a written statement yesterday that they were 'minded to' refer the project to the IPC. They can't actually do it yet, because referral can only happen once the project has been applied for, and that is not expected until next year.

There is also the imponderable that the mind of the Secretary of State may be contained in a different body by next year, a Conservative one. Conservative local authority groups are divided on the project - Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea (that's two councils) oppose it but Westminster supports it - see this correspondence (page 1, page 2). They are however united in their opposition to the IPC. A new Conservative government is therefore considerably less likely to refer the project to the IPC, although if its proposed replacement - the Major Infrastructure Unit of the Planning Inspectorate or of CLG (not sure which) - is in place, it may refer it to that.