ICE director general Nick Baveystock last week welcomed the government’s drastically scaled down national planning framework but warned that its localism agenda must not obstruct efficient infrastructure delivery.
His comments follow a year of work by the ICE to strengthen provisions in the Localism Bill and draft versions of the new framework to protect infrastructure planning and development.
The ICE had previously expressed concern that the new planning framework was “over-simplified” failing to account for the complexity of infrastructure development.
“Making the planning system more user-friendly is key to unlocking investment in infrastructure,” said Baveystock.
“However, energy, water and transport networks often sit above the local level, requiring a high degree of cooperation from neighbouring authorities.
“The framework must be robust enough to deal effectively with such projects.”
The framework requires local authorities to work together on larger than local issues under a “duty to cooperate”.
But this duty has attracted criticism from the ICE and other bodies worried that it might be too weak to be effective.
Baveystock said the new framework has done little to alleviate these concerns. “We are still not convinced that the duty to cooperate is sufficient to overcome incentives for local authorities to prioritise very local plans without full regard for how developments might impact on neighbouring localities,” he said.
“The situation must now be monitored closely to ensure that in the drive to empower local authorities we do not make it even more difficult to deliver the infrastructure that all parties have agreed we so urgently need if we are to create jobs, raise skills and generate growth.”