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  6. Planning reform and infrastructure highlighted in Autumn Statement

Planning reform and infrastructure highlighted in Autumn Statement

Planners have welcomed publication of the Government’s second National Infrastructure Plan, a key element of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

The Statement also stressed the need for planning reforms and included the promise of a review of the appeals process to make it faster and transparent, with proposals for implementation in summer 2012.

The Infrastructure Plan sets out a pipeline of over 500 infrastructure projects and introduces a new approach to financing projects by leveraging some £20bn of private investment from pension funds.

The Coalition has also signalled that it wants to allow local authorities more flexibility to support major infrastructure including allowing local borrowing against future receipts of the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Ministers have announced support for a number of road and rail projects including measures to provide extra capacity on the A14 which will support proposed housing developments in Northstowe, Waterbeach and Alconbury. Further transport projects which have won Government commitment will be announced before the end or 2011.

The administration backs the idea of further crossings of the Thames east of London and plans to consult on options in 2013.

Also now under review is airport capacity (though not expansion of Heathrow) which will involve consideration of the latest proposals for a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Richard Summers, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “The National Infrastructure Plan 2011 is an important step forward in outlining the Government’s priorities for major infrastructure projects across the country in a way that will be useful to planners, developers, communities and investors.

“We are particularly pleased to see the links that have been made between housing growth and infrastructure investment but the plan needs to go further to show the links with business development and environmental protection in our towns and cities and rural areas.”

The Autumn Statement contained a raft of announcements of significance to planning. These included:

  • an obligation on statutory bodies to promote sustainable development through the consents process as soon as the National Planning Policy Framework is adopted
  • proposals to introduce a 13-week maximum timescale for the majority of non-planning consents
  • proposals to put into place a more effective mechanism for appellants to obtain an award of costs where a statutory consultee has behaved unreasonably
  • a commitment to a more flexible and light-touch approach for the handling of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
  • a consultation on the promised review of planning obligations made prior to April 2010 for stalled development
  • proposals to allow agricultural buildings to be used for other uses e.g. office, leisure, and retail space.

In addition the chancellor’s announcements included the news that there will be 100 per cent capital allowances in the Enterprise Zones in Sheffield, the Black Country, Liverpool, Tees Valley, North Eastern and the Humber.

Access the Autumn Statement.


Roger Milne

1 December 2011