Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers has said the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), which opened its doors in Bristol last week, would be abolished in any Conservative government.
Villiers said that National Policy Statements (NPS) which underpin the IPC would remain, however.
Speaking at a t fringe meeting on the opening day of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Villiers said:
“We would abolish the IPC - we do not want to use that way to impose our priorities.
“It is an inequitable process and undemocratic.
“We find the concept of an unaccountable thrid party quango making these decisions very alarming.
“The NPS make sense - to separate areas out for debate and consensus. These will then help the Planning Inspector, so he does not have to go through whether the principle is needed in the first place, and so will save some considerable time.”
However, Transport for London board member and former Conservative Mayoral candidate Steve Norris was more supportive of the new system.
“We are looking at 10 years and £100M spent on the planning for Heathrow’s Terminal 5 while Hong Kong decided to build and built and began operating a new airport in that time.
“We also have an energy crisis which means new stations needs to be built, which will probably be nuclear.
“The IPC has grasped the nettle and it is an issue about democracy, but we must make our minds up about what the country needs.”
Speaking to NCE, Norris said the best and most accountable method would be for the IPC to make its recommendation to the secretary of state who will then have three months to make a final decision.
Norris said this would both give the last word to an elected official and remove additional political constraints from decisions.
“We need a planning system fit for the 21st Century and need to make sure we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.
“Political legitimacy is OK but we do not want to go back to 10-year planning inquiries,” he said.
CECA 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 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 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.”