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Civils 2009: Planning for Change

The new planning system for major projects, regeneration initiatives and nuclear energy will all be explored on day one of the Civilisation Congress at Civils 2009.

This year’s Civils conference falls at an interesting time and speakers at the event have no shortage of subjects to grapple with.

The UK may be in the midst of a recession but according to this year’s NCE Contractors File firms are reporting fuller order books than ever before at £27.4bn.

Major projects such as the £16bn Crossrail scheme are going full steam ahead but the UK enters an election year in 2010 meaning that the future of major government backed investments cannot be guaranteed.

But regardless of the government of the day the UK is committed to the carbon reduction targets as outlined in the Kyoto agreement and all political parties are supportive of renewable energy.

“Our ability to make decisions in a timely fashion in these respects will be a significant factor in promoting and securing our future prosperity.”

Sir Michael Pitt, Infrastructure Planning Commission

Contractors identify this as a core growth sector, which is unsurprising as government has reiterated its commitment to nuclear and renewable energy as a means of meeting the compulsory carbon reduction targets. These involve cutting emissions to 34% of 1990 levels by 2020 and increasing renewable generation to 15% of power generating capacity in the same timeframe.

However, questions remain over how the renewable energy market will develop and which technologies government will support. For example, studies into tidal power are underway in the Mersey and Severn estuaries and these feasibility studies will shape government policy. “There is a huge amount to discuss,” says Mott MacDonald energy director Simon Harrison.

At Civils, he is taking part in a panel discussion on nuclear power entitled “Juggling a political hot potato: debating new investment in nuclear energy”. He anticipates that issues such as dealing with waste, costing the price of carbon and safety will be top of the agenda.

Changes coming

Also taking a high profile spot at Civils 2009 will be the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Its chairman Sir Michael Pitt will tell delegates more about how the IPC will ensure that the planning process is faster for major projects.

“Our ability to make decisions in a timely fashion in these respects will be a significant factor in promoting and securing our future prosperity,” says Pitt. “The IPC will ensure that nationally significant infrastructure projects are decided fairly, quickly and efficiently.”

In addition, other experts at the event will discuss other aspects of the new planning system. Robbie Owen is a planning and infrastructure lawyer and head of major projects at solicitor Bircham Dyson Bell.

“The new system does not mean that things will become easier. In fact in many respects it is more complex.”

Robbie Owen, Bircham Dyson Bell

“There are big changes coming, I am going to talk through the new process and discuss the new policy-making backdrop provided by the Planning Act 2008,” he says. According to Owen the new system could throw up some challenges for the industry.

“The new system does not mean that things will necessarily become easier. In fact in many respects it is a more complex and very different type of process.

“The aspiration is to accelerate planning but in practice this means a process significantly more front loaded, meaning that in many cases it will take longer to work up a scheme before a promoter can apply for consent from the IPC.”

Promoters must also work to involve local authorities and to get project designs right from early in the process, he says.

“The current processes allow an application to be perfected as it passes through the system but with the new system, a promoter will be much less able to make changes − in effect they must have fully thought through all of the issues before the application is launched.”

Judging applications

The IPC started work on 1 October but will not start receiving applications until March 2010. Before this a series of draft National Policy Statements (NPSs) must go out to public consultation setting out the criteria for planning approval for everything from nuclear power stations to ports and railways.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) says that it will publish NPSs for nuclear power, renewable energy, electricity networks, fossil fuel generation, oil and gas infrastructure, ports and road and rail networks.

“The new system provides a fairer method of judging major infrastructure projects, where the interests of the general public will be at the heart of decisions.”

Sir Michael Pitt, Infrastructure Planning Commission

“The merits of each application will be judged against a relevant NPS,” explains Pitt. “These have been written by relevant government departments, will receive an extended 16 week consultation period and will then go before parliament,” he says. According to the DCLG the NPS will be designated over the course of 2010 following the consultation.

Four further NPSs are being produced in 2010/2011 covering wastewater, hazardous waste, airports and water supply. With any new system there is inevitably uncertainty but Pitt remains confi dent that the IPC will improve the planning process for everyone.

“The new system provides a more simplified, inclusive and fairer method of judging major infrastructure projects, where the interests of the general public will be at the heart of decisions,” says Pitt.

  • Book a free ticket at and pre register. For more information on the event contact Rob Lozowski on 020 7728 4513 or email

Civils 2009: Day one thought leadership forums

  • 10:15-10:45 The new sub-regional transport models in London Nigel Campbell, director of policy analysis, Transport Planning Directorate, Transport for London
  • 14:00-15:00 Implementing the requirements of the Planning Act and implications for major transport infrastructure projects Robbie Owen, head of major projects, Bircham Dyson Bell Energy
  • 10:00-10:30 Renewable energy − powering our future Beverley Walker, renewable market manager UK & Europe, Royal Haskoning
  • 10:30-11:00 The future value of Carbon Abatement Technology Heather Haydock, knowledge leader, energy and climate change, AEA
  • 14:30-15:00 The Carbon Reduction Commitment − what steps does your organisation need to take to meet the targets? Katy Dolphin, principal officer sustainable communities and climate change, Environment Agency
  • 15:30-16:00 Opportunities associated with the Offshore Electricity Transmission Regulatory Regime Robert Hull, director of regulatory services, Ofgem


Civils 2009: Day one conference programme

  • 09:20-09:30 Welcome remarks from moderator professor Greg Clark
  • 09:30-10:00 KEYNOTE: The vision for London Terry Hill, past chairman, Arup
  • 10:00-10:30 The Homes and Communities Agency: How infrastructure development fits into the vision for London’s sustainable communities Fiona Piercy, head of national consultancy, Homes and Communities Agency
  • 10:30-11:00 Implementing a faster and fairer process for large scale infrastructure projects Sir Michael Pitt, chairman, Infrastructure Planning Commission
  • 11:00-11:30 KEYNOTE: What role does infrastructure development play in preparing Britain’s economy for the future? Vincent Cable MP, Liberal Democrats
  • 11:45-12:15 What can we learn from the UK’s regeneration initiatives, their ROI and their continuing legacy? Councilor Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council
  • 12:15-13:15 Making the historic link between civilisation and infrastructure, what can we learn from the UK’s regeneration initiatives, their ROI and their continuing legacy? Eric Sorensen, director, Central London Forwards, City of London
  • 14:00-14:30 KEYNOTE: Assessing government policy on energy and infrastructure Dr Timothy Stone, expert chair, Office for Nuclear Development and senior advisor to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • 14:30-15:00 Exploring key factors influencing energy and power investment decisions Steve Argent, senior consultant (major power projects) Arup
  • 15:00-15:30 Assessing the risks of securing finance for UK nuclear new build Andrew Steel, managing director, head of energy, utilities and regulation, Fitch Ratings
  • 15:45-16:30 PANEL DISCUSSION: Juggling a political hot potato: debating new investment in nuclear energy Simon Harrison, director of energy, Mott MacDonald
  • 16:30-17:00 From nuclear decommissioning to new build: Lessons learned − a contractor’s view Paul Campbell, director of nuclear, Costain
  • 17:00-17:15 Chairman’s Closing Remarks professor Greg Clark

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