Today's entry marks the coming into force of the Localism
Act changes to the Planning Act regime.
On Sunday 1 April, a new world of infrastructure planning and
authorisation was born. The world shook, the dust settled, and the
day passed as uneventfully as the government could have hoped. This
was the day that changes to the Planning Act regime made by the
Localism Act 2011 were brought into force. The Infrastructure
Planning Commission (IPC) has vanished from cyberspace, and
Bristol, and has been replaced by the National Infrastructure
Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate. The dramatis
personae is, however, virtually identical. The shorthand for
describing the new organisation has not yet been settled - is it
just PINS, should it be NID, or even NID/PINS? It certainly
shouldn't be MIPU, an old potential name that some less astute
observers are still using.
website has changed address, it is now
http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk, having lost its
independence. It contains almost the same content, but now has a
blue and yellow look instead of the previous blue and purple. There
are some improvements as set out on
this page. The website describes itself as the 'national
infrastructure planning portal'. Web pages have been changed to
reflect the new reality, although other updating changes have not
always been made, e.g. the recent designation of another National
Policy Statement. References to the transition on the Department
for Communities and Local Government (CLG) website have been
archived - no hanging about there. Where will the imminent
'light touch review' appear, I wonder?
Applications should now physically be made to the National
Infrastructure Directorate of the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol.
Email addresses and phone numbers remain as they were before. 14 of
the 15 IPC advice notes have been republished under the imprimatur
of the Planning Inspectorate. The 15th, an advice digest, has been
withdrawn and is being amended.
In terms of advice on individual issues, the advice log is still
there. Of the three pieces of advice published since 1 April, one
says 'I would therefore suggest that you seek your own legal
advice upon which you rely' - a reassuring indication that
things aren't all that different.
For notified and live applications, i.e. ones where the IPC had
been notified that pre-application consultation was about to
commence (10), and ones where applications had actually been made
(12), a seamless changeover has been effected by a
direction from the Secretary of State. This simply states that
everything that has happened so far counts as if it had happened
under the changed regime.
The Localism Act has brought other minor changes to the regime
which make various things a little more relaxed and flexible.
Perhaps the most interesting new power is the one that allows
anyone to ask that a project that is below the thresholds in the
Act nevertheless be able (required, in fact) to use it. The Thames
Tunnel would have been a good candidate, but an order amending the
Act has finally been laid before Parliament, which will mean sewage
transfer projects are included without individual requests needing
to be made. We shall soon see what the first application actually
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