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IPC now open for business

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has started work to an enthusiastic welcome from industry and business bodies.

Chaired by Sir Michael Pitt, the IPC aims to drive down the time taken to process planning applications for large infrastructure projects to a maximum of a year.

“The opening of our doors today - on time, on budget and ready to go - represents a major milestone in the history of infrastructure planning and a major opportunity to shape our country’s long-term sustainable development,”said Pitt.

Support

“Since I took up my appointment in May, I have spent a great deal of time listening to a diverse range of people and organisations about the future of national infrastructure and the role of the IPC.

“What is abundantly clear is the overwhelming support for a more efficient regime to enable us to meet the challenges of climate change, as well as safeguarding economic prosperity and our quality of life.

“For the IPC to succeed in its decision-making role and build confidence across all sectors, we will at all times remain firmly independent, impartial and inclusive.

What is abundantly clear is the overwhelming support for a more efficient regime to enable us to meet the challenges of climate change, as well as safeguarding economic prosperity and our quality of life.

IPC chair Sir Michael Pitt

“I am determined that the IPC will ensure individuals and groups get improved opportunities to have their views fully considered and taken into account.

“Infrastructure promoters tell us that they hope to submit around 50 applications in our first year, so there is a huge demand for our services from a range of sectors.”

Applications in March 2010

From today, the IPC will act as an independent advisory body and will be ready to receive applications from the Energy and Transport sectors from March 2010.

Housing and planning Minister John Healey said: “Improving the UK’s infrastructure now and in the future is critical to maintaining and improving our quality of life, protecting our prosperity and safeguarding the environment in an increasingly competitive global economy.

“The creation of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is important for the delivery of these changes for a new generation of green infrastructure sources to meet our ambitious low-carbon goals.

“Over the next two decades we will need to replace around a third of our electricity generating capacity if we are to continue to meet demand. And unless we make much greater use of renewable energy we will struggle to reduce carbon emissions.

“We also need to improve our transport - railways, ports, roads and airports - and water and waste infrastructure. But we need to deliver this in a way which takes into account the needs of communities and the natural environment and we need to get it right first time.

“The new planning system will be fairer and faster, cutting the time taken to make decisions from up to seven years down to under a year. The interests of the public will come first and there will be more and better opportunities for opinions to be heard at more stages in the process.

“Investors have told us they want certainty and predictability about how the new regime will work. From today, businesses will receive guidance from the IPC on what their applications should include and crucially how to consult with the public before they are submitted. From 1 March next year, the IPC will start accepting applications for energy and transport projects.

“The IPC will then help us develop energy infrastructure such as wind power to cut our fossil fuel addiction and meet our ambitious low-carbon goals. Reforming the system means faster decisions on many low-carbon power sources, and the country could save £300M a year.”

Existing system ‘Boggs down’ applications

Welcoming the move, the CBI’s Deputy Director-General, John Cridland said: “For too long infrastructure schemes of major national importance have ended up getting bogged down in planning delays.  The launch of the Infrastructure Planning Commission should streamline the planning process and encourage investment in the country’s vital infrastructure.
 
“We urgently need new nuclear powerstations and windfarms to bolster our energy security and cut carbon emissions. The new Commission should help ensure that decisions in the national interest will be made swiftly by independent experts.  
 
“Some firms, frustrated by the UK’s planning regime, have already taken their investments overseas, so the top priority for the government must be to publish the National Policy Statements on infrastructure development sooner rather than later. That will allow firms to invest with confidence, and get on with building the new transport and energy infrastructure needed to shift to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) National Director Rosemary Beales said: “The challenge facing the UK in the next ten years is to deliver sustainable, value for money critical national infrastructure for a low-carbon economy. To achieve this Government must accept the need for long term investment plans for infrastructure, especially transport and energy, and implement a policy framework that will deliver this.

“Planning reform is a major part of this framework, and we welcome national policy statements and the establishment of the Infrastructure Planning Commission as highly positive steps in the right direction. Streamlining the planning process and speeding up decisions will mean greater certainty over individual projects as well as giving the clarity needed for long term investment plans.

“We look forward to the establishment of ‘Infrastructure UK’, as promised by the Government in ‘Building Britain’s Future’, to identify the country’s long term infrastructure needs across a 5-50 year horizon, and we hope it will be set up as a complementary body to the IPC.

“We understand the shape of the IPC may alter if power changes hands at the next General Election, but the essential function must be retained if we are to have a planning system that can effectively deliver investment in critical national infrastructure.”

National Policy Statements are expected soon, athough some bodies believe that the government has been too slow in publishing the draft NPS.

The IPC

  • Based in Bristol
  • 40-strong team will initially offer independent expert advice to all those wising to submit an application
  • From 1 March, the IPC will be ready to receive applications from the energy and transport sectors.
  • 35 commissioners and other staff are to be idependent, impartial and inclusive.
  • Consolidates what is a: “complex, confusing and costly system”.
  • Fairer - to give the public, objectors, consultees and developers to chance to have their views considered
  • IPC will apply independent professional and technical judgement
  • Reduce decision-making time from 100 weeks to less than one year.
  • Estimated to cut the costs of delivering national infrastructure by £300M per year.

 

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