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Localism threatens major projects

Major project developers this week warned that they may withdraw schemes if the government decides to hand power to award planning permission over to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

At present, planning permission for major projects is awarded by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). But the IPC is to be absorbed into the Planning Inspectorate and will no longer make such decisions.

Instead the government is considering handing responsibility for planning decisions to DCLG ministers.

“There is a fear that if decision making rests with [DCLG] it would be based on localism rather than strategic need and that would force us to seriously reconsider some schemes,” said a director at a leading developer.

In early July IPC chairman Sir Michael Pitt reassured the industry that despite the new government’s policy changes, his team would continue to assess projects and produce a final report within 12 months of the scheme being accepted.

IPC members will form the core of the new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) located within the Planning Inspectorate.

DCLG told NCE that all major project planning decisions would be based on MIPU recommendations and national policy statements.

It said that no decision on who would make final planning decisions had been made. “Major infrastructure projects will be decided by ministers on the basis of recommendations by the new MIPU, and in accordance with the clear policy framework set out in NPSs,” it said.

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