Ministers to decide on infrastructure plans

The planning system for large-scale infrastructure projects is to change with the newly-formed Infrastructure Planning Committee (IPC) abolished. The move, part of the Government's strategy to move decision making from quangos to ministers, will see a new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit (MIPU) within the Planning Inspectorate take over the IPC's role.

It will to continue fast-tracking major infrastructure projects such as sewage treatment works with decisions made within a year or so of submission, said a spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

New primary legislation will be brought forward to close the IPC and establish the new unit. Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said that while the Government believed in a fast-track system for major projects 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,” he said.

“Today 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,” he said.

Barrie Clarke, director of communication at Water UK, said: “There is no question at all that having a planning structure and set of planning arrangements that are transparent and where a result can be expected reasonably quickly is something that does matter to water companies.

“I think the concept of major economic infrastructure, which certainly includes water and wastewater treatment facilities, is an important one and we need to make sure that proper considerations is given to that. In particular at this time investment infrastructure must be a good idea and given the strains in the economy we need to prioritise that investment.”

But Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, expressed concern about ministerial involvement in planning decisions. “It’s very important for economic growth that major transport and energy infrastructure projects are approved and delivered in good time. We remain concerned that if decisions rest with ministers, projects will be delayed or blocked for political reasons.”

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