The coalition Government has published a timetable for implementing its decentralising and localism agenda which indicates that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) may survive until April 2012. That is when ministers anticipate the new Major Infrastructure Projects Unit will be established in the Planning Inspectorate.
That is also the target date for a new national planning policy based on the Conservative’s ‘Open Source Planning’ proposals. The administration is promising to “radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods much greater ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live”.
The Government has already committed to retain a fast-track process for major projects during the transitional arrangements, where all applications will be decided by the Secretary of State following completion of the IPC process.
Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: "New infrastructure is critical to the country's return to economic growth and we believe we must have a fast-track system for major projects - but it must be accountable.
"The previous system lacked any democratic legitimacy by giving decision-making power away to a distant quango on issues crucial to every community in the country.
"The coalition is remedying those deficiencies by putting in place a new fast-track process where the people's elected representatives have responsibility for the final decisions about Britain's future instead of unelected commissioners."
This timetable also suggests that the dissolution of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the Government Office for London will be achieved by then.
According to this scenario, set out in the Cabinet Office’s draft structural reform plan for the Department for Communities and Local Government, ministers are expecting to see Royal Assent for their Localism Bill by November 2011.
This legislation will include proposals for a new designation to protect green areas of particular importance to local authorities.
The document signals that from November this year local planning authorities will be able to work “in new ways on local plans” in advance of the passing of the Localism Bill.
The plan for CLG’s future work includes immediate consultation on the possible transfer of functions from RDAs. Work on the establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships is scheduled to take 12 months from September 2010.
Also due very soon is the detail of the promised incentive scheme intended to encourage local authorities to build more new homes. This is being developed with the Treasury.
15 July 2010