Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Planning body could be first victim

The Infrastructure Planning Commission could be one of the first victims of the new administration as it looks to overhaul the planning system.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are set on a “localism” agenda for planning rules, with regional development authorities and the IPC both set to be cut.

The IPC could go as soon as next week when chancellor George Osborne unveils how the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition will make £6 billion savings across the public sector in 2010.

Both parties in the coalition are opposed to the body, which looks particularly vulnerable given the chancellor’s stated aim of making cuts on government quangos.

The full scope of the local power agenda is likely to be implemented later, however, with experts saying that it may take more work before it can be put into practice.

Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers suggested there could be a lengthy lead-in with “inevitable transition problems”. And British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said: “The worry is that amid all the idealistic thinking around localism, it may take some more work before it can be implemented.”

The Tories have long pledged to cull a large number of the UK’s independent administrative bodies, and Mr Osborne reaffirmed this week there would be “significant reductions to the cost of quangos”.

The IPC, however, is yet to hear its fate. A spokesman said this week: “We have not been told anything, so it is business as usual for us.”

The body, which was established under the 2008 Planning Act to speed up planning decisions for major projects, said it received six new proposals last week for consideration - including the Galloper wind farm, a 504MW extension to SSE and RWE npower Renewables’ Greater Gabbard project and a 69MW onshore wind farm at Myndd y Gwynt in Wales, from Renewable Energy Holdings.

But both the Tories and the Lib Dems proposed to change the role of the IPC in their manifestos. The Tories said they would bring it under the planning inspectorate, with all final decisions to be made by ministers, while the Liberal Democrats pledged to disband the commission altogether.

The localism agenda has been one of the biggest concerns for the construction sector, with fears that it will cause planning to seize up. The IPC, meanwhile, had proved popular with the industry, with even ex-Tory minister Steven Norris expressing support.

Contractors this week urged a swift decision on its future. Mr Ankers added: “This needs to be sorted out very quickly, if key decisions are to be reached on energy projects.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association also asked the new coalition to move quickly on overhauls to planning.

National director Rosemary Beales said: “We know there will be a period of reassessment as the new Government settles into office, but we want to see an early commitment to a streamlined planning process for major projects and to delivering Infrastructure UK’s Strategy for National Infrastructure.”

One area of concern under the new adminstration is nuclear energy, with anti-nuclear Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne in charge of the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

However, EDF chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said there was now more certainty on the future of the UK nuclear programme after the Lib Dems - who had opposed the construction of any new reactors - agreed to abstain on the issue in parliamentary votes as long as there was no state financial support for new plants.

Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed his commitment to the localism drive by appointing Greg Clark as a minister for decentralisation.

Mr Clark, the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, will help to move responsibilities from central and regional government to local authorities.

It is unclear yet as to what Mr Clark’s initial priorities will be. In the lead up to the general election the Tories put a significant focus on housebuilding and their plans to incentivise local authorities through financial awards to accept development in their area.

Mr Ankers said: “It will be interesting to see whether the Tory view on incentivising councils to accept more housing prevails.”