Decentralisation minister Greg Clark last week confirmed that he is scrapping the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) - the quango which approves major infrastructure projects.
It will be replaced by a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) within the Planning Inspectorate.
MIPU’s job will be to continue fast-tracking major infrastructure projects like offshore wind farms and nuclear power stations.
Ministers will take decisions on planning applications within the same statutory fast-track timeframe as the current regime.
Government infrastructure blueprints, known as National Policy Statements, will still become subject to ratification by Parliament.
“New infrastructure is critical to the country’s return to economic growth and we believe we must have a fast track system for major projects. But it must be accountable,” said Clark.
This is in contrast to the IPC, he said. “The previous system lacked any democratic legitimacy by giving decision-making power to a distant quango on issues crucial to every community in the country.”
Primary legislation will be brought forward to close the IPC. Until this is in place the IPC will continue to determine planning applications within the National Policy Statement (NPS) framework.
“It is imperative that these reforms do not derail any progress we have already made”
The government intends to continue drafting the energy NPS, which includes plans for new nuclear power stations. But ministers will decide how future policy statements are produced later in the summer.
ICE director general Tom Foulkes said it is vital that progress on energy schemes is maintained.
“It is imperative that these reforms do not derail any progress we have already made,” he said. “With a looming energy generation shortfall and pressing environmental targets we simply don’t have time to go back to square one with vital energy, transport, water and waste projects.”
Others were unhappy about the the proposed MIPU.
“Major long term infrastructure investment should be taken away from political agendas as the returns, in terms of social and economic benefits will be eroded,” said EC Harris head of transportation Mark Prior.
“By its very nature major infrastructure investment is long term and outlasts one or even two Parliaments,” he said.