UK infra planning body opens for business

The Infrastructure Planning Commission is intended to streamline the planning process of major infrastructure projects, acting as an advisor to private developers. It will target projects in the power, transport and water sectors.

The UK government has launched its new body intended to streamline the planning process of major infrastructure projects.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) will advise the developers of large infrastructure projects which it deems vital to the country’s economy. The commission will specifically target projects in the power station, road, rail and airport sectors, as well as projects involving water and waste infrastructure.

IPC: streamlining

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the new IPC will replace eight former planning systems with a single process. It has the aim of reducing the gestation time of infrastructure planning decisions from up to seven years to less than one year, saving the British taxpayer as much as £300 million (€327 million; $476 million) in the process.

Housing and planning minister John Healey said the launch of the commission will, among other things, help the UK replace a third of its electricity generating capacity, which it is estimated will be needed to meet future demand.

“Investors have told us they want certainty and predictability about how the new regime will work. From today, businesses will receive guidance from the IPC on what their applications should include and crucially how to consult with the public before they are submitted,” Healey commented in a government statement.

Despite receiving some criticism on environmental and community protection grounds, including the Conservative party – which has pledged to abolish the IPC if they are elected, the new body has been welcomed by business. John Cridland, deputy director-general of business lobbying group the Confederation of British Industry said the commission should encourage private investment in the UK’s infrastructure:

“Some firms, frustrated by the UK’s planning regime, have already taken their investments overseas, so the top priority for the government must be to publish the National Policy Statements on infrastructure development sooner rather than later. That will allow firms to invest with confidence, and get on with building the new transport and energy infrastructure needed to shift to a low-carbon economy.”

The IPC estimated it will receive around 50 infrastructure planning applications during its first year of operation.