Legislation: The Planning Act 2008

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INTRODUCTION

The Planning Act 2008 ('the Act') received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008 and came into force in stages over 2009. This Act reforms the planning application process in England and Wales, with impacts upon development consent regimes including those for major energy, water, transport and waste development, as well as the town and country planning system. The Act has had three main focuses:

(1)  the new consenting system for major infrastructure projects with the establishment of an Infrastructure Planning Commission;
(2)  the introduction of a levy payable upon the carrying out of development through the Community Infrastructure Lew (CIL); and
(3)  amendments to the town and country planning regimes.

Only 25 per cent of the Act deals with reforms to the current planning system, the majority of which are aimed at streamlining the process.

In 2006, the Government commissioned a review by Kate Barker on land use planning and the link between planning and economic growth and an investigation by Sir Rod Eddington into the relationship between transport and the economy.3 The final reports of the Barker Review and the Eddington Study recommended reforms to clarify the policy framework against which planning decisions could be made for major infrastructure projects and to simplify the planning application process for such projects. The Government accepted the principal conclusions of the Barker Review and Eddington Study and responded with detailed proposals in the Planning White Paper in May 2007,4 stating that the Government vision is

for a planning system which supports vibrant, healthy sustainable communities, promotes the UK's international competitiveness, and enables the infrastructure which is vital to our quality of life to be provided, in a way that is integrated with the delivery of other sustainable development objectives, and ensures that local communities and members of the public can make their views heard.

In announcing the obtaining of Royal Assent, Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

One third of Britain's electricity generation capacity must be replaced in the next few years and the current planning system is not able to cope. Under the current regime there is enough renewable energy caught up in the system to power over one and a half million homes.

Understandably the aim of the Act is to speed up the provision of major infrastructure projects - to create a new integrated system for major infrastructure to 'allow big decisions to be made in under a year, give people three chances to be heard rather than just one as now, and make the entire process more accountable and transparent'.6. The hope is to avoid some of the long-delayed decisions of major projects in the past, such as Heathrow Terminal 5 and Dibden Bay Port. Whether this will happen remains to be seen.

At the same time that the Act received Royal Assent, the Energy Act 2008 and the Climate Change Act 2008 also received Royal Assent. The Government's aim is that all three Acts will help the UK to meet its energy and climate change strategy and help it towards greater sustainable development, heightened governance and accountability.

This short note focuses on the new consenting system for major infrastructure projects with the establishment of an Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and the introduction of the CIL.

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