The Planning Inspectorate is more than half way towards its goal of reducing overall staffing levels by 200 posts following the planned merger with the Infrastructure Planning Commission, PINS chief executive and IPC chair Sir Michael Pitt told a conference in London.
The combined organisations must reduce their budget over the spending review period to 2014/2015 by approximately £12m.
The conference, which was considering the progress of the new planning regime for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, was told that the new planning regime is working well, but the timing of proposals notified to the IPC was delayed compared with developers' original plans. Sir Michael also felt that there were opportunities for streamlining the process and for developers to learn from each other, leading to a net reduction in the scale of applications.
He pointed out that EDF Energy’s proposals for its Hinkley C nuclear power station, lodged three week ago, ran to 26,000 pages. The only scheme to be determined so far by the IPC – Covanta’s energy from waste scheme in Bedfordshire – totalled some 7,000 pages of material.
He promised that the commission, with help from the Government, would be publishing guidance on making the process more streamlined and less onerous.
Also expected shortly would be clarification of the transitional arrangements for schemes currently being handled by the commission which would be transferred to the Inspectorate’s Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU), the successor to the Commission. Shadow appointments to posts have already been made in readiness for April 2012.
The IPC chair said local authorities were proving tough and successful negotiators during the pre-application stage.
Giles Scott, head of development consents and planning reform at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, told the same conference that ministers were due to make decisions on 22 “legacy” energy projects under the former s36 procedures.
He revealed these included nine onshore wind farms, four offshore wind schemes, three combined cycle gas turbine plants, one wave and tidal project, one coal-fired power station and four biomass and energy-from-waste schemes.
Because some of these schemes require public inquiries this backlog of projects won’t all be determined until 2013/14, he said.
24 November 2011