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					HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL                                              Agenda Item
                                                                              No.
COUNTY COUNCIL

Tuesday 17 July 2007 at 10.30 am                                            13
CABINET

Monday 23 July 2007 at 2.00 pm                                          Cabinet Agenda
                                                                           Item No.

                                                                          SEE AGENDA
PLANNING FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE WHITE PAPER

Report of the Director of Environment

Author: Paul Donovan             Tel:    01992 556289

Executive Member:                Derrick Ashley (Planning, Partnerships and Waste)

1.      Purpose of report

The following item of business has been requested for consideration at the
Council Meeting on 17 July 2007 by D A Ashley, D Beatty, A D Dodd, B N W
Hammond and D W Hills:-

“That the County Council considers the implications for Hertfordshire of the
Planning White Paper „Planning for a Sustainable Future‟ and makes
recommendations to the Cabinet, in order that they can agree a response to
the Government.”

The Cabinet on 23 July 2007 will agree the County Council‟s response, taking
account of the full Council‟s views.

2.      Summary

Since 1997 the Government has introduced a range of reforms aimed at
improving the planning system. These changes culminated in the Planning
and Compulsory Purchase Act in 2004 which put in place, amongst other
matters, the new development plan system – Regional Spatial Strategies and
Local Development Frameworks.

Despite the reforms that have already taken place, the Government sees a
number of drivers for further reform so that it is best placed to address a
number of challenges the country faces – climate change, supporting
economic development, increasing housing supply, protecting and enhancing
the environment, improving local and national infrastructure and maintaining
security of energy supply. To respond to these challenges the Government
proposes a wide range of changes to the way in which major infrastructure
projects are handled and changes to aspects of the planning system.


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper             1
The most controversial aspect of the White Paper relate to proposals for
national policy statements on infrastructure of a national scale and for the
creation of an independent Commission to determine applications for specific
national infrastructure schemes.


3.        Conclusions

Cabinet on 23 July 2007 will agree the response to the detailed consultation
questions on the wide range of issues covered by the White Paper, taking into
account the views of the full Council.

The most significant proposals within the White Paper, and therefore those
upon which County Council and Cabinet may chiefly wish to focus their
attention, relate to proposals for national policy statements and the
Commission. In relation to these, the draft response to the consultation
attached to this report at Appendix 1, and summarised in paragraphs 5.2 to
5.14:

         proposes that the production of national policy statements should
          include provision for independent scrutiny through examination in
          public processes.
         expresses concern about the lack of democratic accountability of the
          Commission and calls for decisions to remain with local authorities and
          the Government. Where the Commission is involved in considering
          any scheme it should merely make recommendations to Government –
          not be the decision-maker.
         supports the replacement of public inquiries with the proposed
          operation of the Commission – focussed on written evidence and open
          public debate through means of targeted questions set by the
          Commission, rather than lengthy adversarial legal proceedings
          exploring issues set by parties involved.


4.        Background and overview of proposals in the White Paper

4.1       Since 1997 the Government has introduced a range of reforms aimed
          at improving the planning system. These changes culminated in the
          Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act in 2004 which put in place,
          amongst other matters, the new development plan system – Regional
          Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks.

4.2     Recently the Government has commissioned advice on a number of
        specific topics, including :
       Planning policy and procedures could better deliver economic growth
        and prosperity in a way that is integrated with other sustainable
        development goals (Kate Barker Review).




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper           2
         Long-term links between transport and the UK‟s economic productivity,
          growth and stability and how delivery mechanisms for transport
          infrastructure might be improved within the context of the
          Government‟s commitment to sustainable development (Rod
          Eddington Review).

4.3.      Drawing on Barker and Eddington advice and on other wider issues,
          the White Paper outlines the key challenges the country faces as
          climate change, supporting sustainable economic development,
          increasing the supply of housing, protecting and enhancing the
          environment and natural resources, improving our local and national
          infrastructure and maintaining security of energy.

4.4       Taking all these factors into account the Government takes the view
          that despite significant reforms to the planning system that have taken
          place over recent years, a range of problems remain. These are seen
          as being:
                national policy is not sufficiently clear and responsive;
                it is too bureaucratic, takes too long and is unpredictable;
                individuals and communities find it difficult to be heard – the
                 current system does not lend itself to public involvement;
                planning systems are confusing and unclear;
                decisions are not always taken at the right level – government
                 wishes to reduce the number of decisions taken by the Secretary
                 of State. It also argues that local decision making may not be the
                 best solution for complex applications that span local authority
                 areas or which confer national or regional benefits and local
                 disbenefits.

4.5       The Government proposes five core principles that underpin their White
          Paper proposals:
              planning must be responsive, particularly to longer term
                challenges such as increasing globalisation and climate change,
                and properly integrate our economic social and environmental
                objectives to deliver sustainable development;
              the planning system should be streamlined, efficient and
                predictable;
              there must be full and fair opportunities for public consultation
                and community engagement;
              the planning system should be transparent and accountable;
              planning should be undertaken at the right level of government –
                national, regional and local.

Key national infrastructure

4.6       For key national infrastructure such as major airport and port projects,
          improvements to the Strategic Road Network, major new power
          generating facilities and facilities critical to energy security, and major




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper               3
          reservoir and waste water plant works, in applying its five core
          principles the Government propose to:
         produce, following thorough and effective public consultation and
          Parliamentary scrutiny, national policy statements to ensure that there
          is a clear policy framework for nationally significant infrastructure which
          integrates environmental, economic and social objectives to deliver
          sustainable development;
         provide greater certainty for promoters of infrastructure projects and
          help them to improve the way that they prepare applications by making
          better advice available to them; by requiring them to consult publicly on
          proposals for development; and by requiring early and effective
          engagement with key parties such as local authorities, statutory bodies,
          and relevant highway authorities;
         streamline the decision making process, and achieve a clear
          separation of policy and decision making by creating an independent
          commission to take the decisions on nationally significant infrastructure
          cases within the framework of the relevant nationally policy statement;
         improve public participation across the entire process by providing
          better opportunities for public consultation and engagement at each
          stage of the planning approval process (for example, by placing a
          requirement on scheme promoters to undertake widespread public
          consultation and requiring the Commission to consult widely on
          submission of any application); improving the ability of the public to
          participate in inquiries by introducing a specific „open floor‟ stage; and,
          alongside the introduction of new system providing additional funding
          to bodies such as Planning Aid.

Town and Country Planning System

4.7       Applying its five core principles to the planning system, the
          Government proposes to introduce the changes listed below. Many of
          these proposals are either consulted upon separately in more detailed
          documents or will be the subject of future consultation. As such and as
          indicated in paragraph 5.1, they are not considered in section 5 of this
          report or in the appended draft response to the White Paper.
         produce more strategic, clearer and more focused national planning
          policy framework with PPS1 – Delivering Sustainable Development at
          its heart, to provide the context for plan-making and decision-taking;
         publish a new Planning Policy Statement, Planning for Economic
          Development‟        which will further reinforce the Government‟s
          commitment set out in PPS1 to promoting a strong, stable and
          productive economy with access for all to jobs, to regeneration and
          improved employment prospects;
         improve the effectiveness of the town centre planning policy by
          replacing the need and impact tests with a new test which has a strong
          focus on our town centre first policy, and which promotes competition
          and improves consumer choice, avoiding the unintended effects of the
          current need test;




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper               4
         finalise the Planning Policy Statements on climate change and
          introduce legislation to set out clearly the role of local planning
          authorities in tackling energy efficiency and climate change;
         work with industry to set in place a timetable and action plan to deliver
          substantial reductions in carbon emissions from new commercial
          buildings within the next 10 years;
         review and wherever possible extend permitted development rights on
          micro generation to non residential types of land use including
          commercial and agricultural development;
         place planning at the heart of local government by aligning the
          Sustainable Community Strategy and the local development framework
          core strategy. Government will work with the LGA and others to
          continue building capacity, promoting the culture change in planning
          and issue „place shaping‟ guidance;
         introduce changes to local development frameworks to ensure a more
          streamlined and tailored process with more flexibility about the number
          and type of plans, how they are produced and a more meaningful,
          engaged level of community involvement;
         introduce Planning Performance Agreements, which will help
          streamline the processing of major applications, and support a properly
          resourced planning service with changes to planning fees and consult
          on devolving the setting of planning fees to local authorities;
         introduce a new impact approach to householder development which
          will reduce the number of minor applications whilst protecting the
          interests of neighbours, the wider community and the environment, and
          then extend this approach to other types of development; and
         streamline the planning application process, reduce the number of
          applications called in by ministers and introduce a range of measures
          to substantially improve the appeals process.


5.        Responding to the White Paper

5.1       The Government sets out a range of specific consultation questions in
          its White Paper consultation document. A draft response to these
          questions is appended (Appendix 1) and summarised below.
          Alongside the consultation on the White Paper the Government is also
          consulting, within the same timeframe, on a series of more
          detailed/operational reforms to the planning system, as follows:
         Planning Performance Agreements: A new way to manage large-scale
          major planning applications.
         Planning fees in England: Proposals for Change.
         Changes to permitted Development Consultation Paper 2: Permitted
          Development Rights for Householders.
         Improving the appeal process in the planning system – Making it
          proportionate, customer focussed, efficient and well resourced.

These detailed/operational reforms are not considered in this report. Any
appropriate response to these more detailed consultations within the context



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper             5
of the County Council‟s role as a local planning authority will be made by the
Director of Environment in consultation with the Executive Member (Planning,
Partnerships and Waste).

National Infrastructure Projects

National Policy Statements

5.2     The White Paper proposes that national policy statements would
        „provide a clear statement of policy and the nature of infrastructure
        development necessary to deliver our wider goals of improving
        people‟s quality of life, economic prosperity and protecting and
        enhancing the environment‟. In practice this would mean that inquiries
        on individual applications for development would not cover issues such
        as whether there is a case for infrastructure development, what the
        case is, or the sorts of development most likely to meet the need for
        additional capacity, as these will have already been addressed in
        national policy statements. Inquiries would focus on specific and local
        impacts of individual applications.

5.3     Applying this approach in practice in the Hertfordshire context would
        almost certainly mean that in-principle decisions relating to capacity
        increases and related physical improvements to infrastructure such as
        Stansted and Luton airports or the motorways running through the
        County would be made in national policy statements. The County
        Council‟s position on these issues could only be made in response to
        consultation on national policy statements. Detailed views on local
        issues would then be submitted for the consideration of the
        Commission in its determination of subsequent individual applications
        for approval.

5.4     In other circumstances national policy statements would not be precise
        or site specific. On transport infrastructure issues, for example, a
        statement might identify the need for a rail freight terminal in a broad
        general area, within which a range of potential sites might lie, or the
        need for a new road scheme but no preferred route. Again, the County
        Council would make its views known to Government on in-principle
        issues in responding to consultation on draft national statements. It
        would advise the Commission on the suitability and implications of
        individual sites or route options when detailed proposals were
        submitted for determination.

5.5     The draft response supports proposals for the Government to make a
        clear statement on national infrastructure issues in national policy
        statements.    However, whilst these statements would be subject to
        public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny is proposed, there are
        no formal proposals for any independent public inquiry or examination
        of draft statements. The draft response proposes that given the
        importance of these statements they should be subject to an
        independent scrutiny process in the form of an Examination in Public –


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          6
        in much the same way as regional spatial strategies are. The
        Government would then have an independent assessment of all the
        views on the proposed statements and recommendations on how the
        Government should finalise them.



5.6     The draft response generally supports other proposals in relation to
        these statements regarding matters such as their content, public
        consultation and opportunity for legal challenge. The White Paper
        proposes that until such time as statements are produced, existing
        Government policy on national infrastructure should provide the context
        for decision-making by its proposed infrastructure commission. The
        draft response suggests that this should not be the case as they have
        not been subject to the necessary level of public scrutiny proposed in
        the County Council‟s approach (described in paragraph 5.5). The
        appropriate transitional arrangements should involve utiltising relevant
        current arrangements, including public inquiry, until such time as
        existing Government policy is replaced through national statements.

Infrastructure Commission

5.7     Fundamentally, the draft response raises concerns about the wisdom
        of allowing decisions of national significance to be taken by an
        unelected body. In the case of schemes for which the Government is
        currently the decision-maker, the draft response suggests that the
        Commission should, taking into consideration all available evidence
        and the views of all parties, make recommendations to Government.
        The final decision on any proposals would then rest with Government.
        Whilst one of the Government‟s objectives is to reduce the number of
        decisions made by it, the number of nationally significant schemes
        should not be excessive.

5.8     For schemes which local authorities are currently the decision-maker it
        is difficult to envisage how the Government‟s proposals would achieve
        its objectives to „improve public participation across the entire process
        by providing better opportunities for public engagement at each stage
        of the development process‟. What the Government seems principally
        to be seeking to achieve in proposing the Commission is the removal of
        overly-lengthy public inquiries, the prime contributors for this being the
        manner in which they operate and the time taken up by in-principle
        matters upon which decisions have already been made. On the latter
        point, the proposals for national policy statements should ensure that
        in-principle decision-making is not rehearsed or re-rehearsed for
        schemes when they come in for determination. On the former point,
        the Government‟s proposals remove the role of public inquiries with
        those for the operation of the Commission – more reliance on written
        evidence, public examination focussed on key issues addressed by the
        Commission, open-floor sessions, and so on.



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper            7
5.9     Under these circumstances there is no case for removal of decision-
        making from democratically elected local authorities. Local authorities
        should be able to make their decisions within the context of national
        policy statements and taking fully into account the views of local
        communities. Where local authorities are minded to refuse, proposals
        could then be referred to the Commission for determination (or to come
        to recommendations for Government under the County Council‟s
        proposals).     Whilst this process might take longer than the
        Government‟s anticipated decision-making timeframe, it would not be
        substantively longer, would engrain democratic accountability, facilitate
        greater community involvement and in the context of the timeframe for
        bringing forward such schemes it would not be significant. Detailed
        proposals could ensure that local authorities are timely in their
        decision-making. Strict timeframes could be introduced, applications
        could default to the Commission if timescales are breached, local
        authorities could refer applications to the Commission under prescribed
        circumstances, etc.

5.10    The White Paper asks if local authorities should have a special status
        in any consultation process. The draft response suggests that they
        should as the democractically elected representatives of the
        communities affected and in having significant intelligence about
        technical and other matters locally. They should also, for example,
        have the right to be heard as witnesses in any examination process.

5.11    The draft response is generally supportive of proposals to replace
        public inquiries with a process that is more reliant on submission of
        technical written evidence, followed by a non-adversarial process
        where the Commission would target analysis on specific questions
        upon which it feels it needs further advice. As a general rule there
        would not be lengthy period of cross examination involving the use of
        legal representatives. The process would also involve what is referred
        to as „open floor‟ stages where interested parties could express their
        views on proposals.

5.12    The prime responsibility for public consultation on proposals lies with
        the scheme promoter. The White Paper proposes a list of statutory
        organisations that promoters should consult with - the County Council
        would be consulted as a highway authority. Whilst the White Paper
        proposes that applications to the Commission should be of a set
        standard, otherwise they would not be accepted, there are no proposed
        standards on what a scheme promoter would be required to consult
        with communities and statutory and other organisations. Under these
        circumstances it is unclear whether scheme promoters would be
        required to have worked up their proposals in a meaningful way to
        enable truly effective consultation. There is also no guidance on
        timescales for such consultation. The draft response proposes that
        there is a need for defined Government guidance on the nature and
        timing of such public consultation. Formal public consultation would be
        carried out by the Commission upon receipt of applications.


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper           8
5.13    The White Paper proposes a range of thresholds above which the
        Commission would be responsible for decision-making (see summary
        of proposals in relation to Question 20 of the appendix to this report).
        A number of these replicate those that already exist in statute – for
        example in relation to energy generating stations above 50 megawatts
        for which consent is required of the Government. This and similar
        thresholds appear sensible. However, in other cases the justification
        for or definition of thresholds is not entirely clear or the threshold is
        proposed to be set in future national policy statements. The draft
        response advises that:


       the decision on thresholds should only be deferred to determination
        through national policy statements under the circumstances proposed
        in the draft response for independent scrutiny of its national policy
        statements. In this way proposed thresholds would be subject to full
        independent scrutiny.
       if the Government is minded not to accept the County Council‟s
        proposals for independent scrutiny of national policy statements then
        when publishing national policy statements the Government should set
        out clearly for consultation its justification for the thresholds proposed
        and their precise definition, supported by intelligence about, amongst
        other matters, where the responsibility for consent/permission currently
        rests.

5.14    The infrastructure proposals which would currently be determined by
        the County Council but which could potentially be transferred to the
        Commission under the illustrative thresholds within the White Paper
        are:

       plant whose main purpose is the final disposal or recovery of
        hazardous waste, with a permitted hazardous waste throughput
        capacity in excess of 30,000 tonnes per annum, or in the case of
        hazardous waste landfill or deep storage facility for hazardous waste, a
        permitted hazardous waste throughput or acceptance capacity at or in
        excess of 100,000 tons per annum.
       waste water treatment plants where the capacity exceeds 150,000
        population equivalent, and wastewater collection infrastructure that is
        associated with such works.
       schemes on, or adding to, the Strategic Road Network requiring land
        outside of the existing highway boundary. This would be subject to
        further definition in the relevant national policy statement. There is no
        definition of strategic road network in the White Paper. In reality, this is
        likely to be confined to those strategic roads for which the Highways
        Agency has responsibility – i.e. this is unlikely to impact upon road
        schemes the County Council may wish to promote on those parts of
        the network for which it is responsible.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper              9
Reforms to the Planning System

Delivering more renewable energy

5.15    The White Paper asks for views on what non residential land and
        property might have greatest potential for microgeneration or
        renewable energy. The response suggests that consideration should
        be given to providing a flexible framework for extension of permitted
        development rights for renewable microgeneration in all forms of
        development – subject to the same rules proposed for householder
        microgeneration – for example, limitations relating to noise, vibration
        and visual amenity.

Strengthening the role of local authorities in place shaping

5.16    The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 introduced a
        requirement for local authorities to produce statutory „Statements of
        Community Involvement‟, setting out how they propose to engage
        communities in development plan and planning application processes.
        The White Paper reconfirms the Government‟s view that there is a
        need to adequately engage communities in all aspects of local
        authority business and to this end propose to replace the narrow
        planning-related SCI with a „duty to involve‟ communities across all
        local authority and local strategic partnership activities. This would
        clearly have significant implications for both the County and district
        councils and their partners in local strategic partnerships in ensuring
        that the consultation and engagement mechanisms on their existing
        services and future proposals are a fundamental element of service
        provision. The draft response supports the principle of this approach.

5.17    Development Plan Documents and Regional Spatial Strategies are
        open to legal challenge processes. If successful, courts rule that a
        defective plan should be deemed defunct and the process of
        preparation should start from the beginning. The White Paper
        proposes that legislation be brought forward to enable plans to be sent
        back to an earlier stage of their preparation, but not necessarily the
        beginning. The response supports this approach.

5.18    The response supports a number of detailed proposals relating to
        removing requirements to list supplementary planning documents
        within Local Development Schemes and the requirement to carry out
        sustainability appraisals of supplementary planning documents.

        Making the planning system more efficient and effective

5.19    The Government is consulting separately on detailed proposals to
        extend permitted development rights for householder development in
        cases where the impact of the development would be low. Where the
        impact would not be low, planning applications would still be required
        for development. The White Paper asks for views on what types of


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper        10
        non-residential development this approach could be extended to. The
        draft response suggests that initially the focus for this should be
        commercial and industrial buildings.

5.20    The White Paper proposes that in cases where minor householder
        development that requires planning permission have the support of
        neighbours a full planning application would not be required. The draft
        response suggests that such a process would potentially be open to
        abuse and would therefore be inappropriate.

5.21    The White Paper proposes that discretion should be allowed for local
        planning authorities to vary an existing planning permission where they
        consider that the variation sought is not material. The draft response
        supports this approach, but only where there is notification to affected
        individuals/communities and relevant organisations.


6.      Financial Implications

Proposals for schemes above a certain threshold to be determined by the
Commission potentially have implications for road, water or wastewater
proposals which would currently be determined by the County Council.
Where applications were no longer submitted to the County Council it would
lose the planning application fees that would accompany any such
applications. However, schemes of this nature would be likely to involve
public inquiries and the costs savings associated with holding such inquiries
would likely to more than offset any losses associated with application fees.

However, until thresholds are ultimately set for those schemes to be
determined by the Commission that are traditionally determined by the County
Council it will not be possible to establish the likely balance of potential
costs/savings of the proposals.

The County Council currently also gets involved in planning inquiries for which
it is not the determining authority – such as the current Stansted Airport
inquiry. In removing requirements for public inquiries the White Paper
proposals would potentially reduce the costs of the County Council‟s input into
similar such processes.

Background Papers

Planning for a Sustainable Future White Paper. Communities and Local
Government, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
Department of Trade and Industry, Department for Transport.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper         11
                                        Appendix 1

Government’s summary of its proposals, the consultation questions and
                   a proposed draft response

1.a) Proposed reforms to the development consent regime for nationally
significant infrastructure projects

Chapter 2: Improving the way key infrastructure projects are dealt with

Q.1     The proposed package of reforms

We propose to replace the multiple existing consent regimes for key national
infrastructure with a new system that will enable us to take decisions on
infrastructure in a way that is timely, efficient and predictable, and which will
improve the accountability of the system, the transparency of decisions, and
the ability of the public and communities to participate effectively in them.
In particular, we propose to:
        produce, following thorough and effective public consultation and
Parliamentary scrutiny, national policy statements to ensure that there is a
clear policy framework for nationally significant infrastructure which integrates
environmental, economic and social objectives to deliver sustainable
development;
        provide greater certainty for promoters of infrastructure projects and
help them to improve the way that they prepare applications by making better
advice available to them; by requiring them to consult publicly on proposals
for development; and by requiring early and effective engagement with key
parties such as local authorities, statutory bodies, and relevant highway
authorities;
        streamline the procedures for infrastructure projects of national
significance by rationalising the different consent regimes and improving the
inquiry procedures for all of them;
        clarify the decision making process, and achieve a clear separation of
policy and decision making, by creating an independent commission to take
the decisions on nationally significant infrastructure cases within the
framework of the relevant national policy statement;
        improve public participation across the entire process by providing
better opportunities for public consultation and engagement at each stage of
the development consent process; improving the ability of the public to
participate in inquiries by introducing a specific “open floor” stage; and,
alongside the introduction of the new regime, providing additional funding to
bodies such as Planning Aid.

Do you agree that there is a strong case for reforming the current system for
planning for nationally significant infrastructure?

Do you agree, in principle, that the overall package of reforms proposed here
achieve the objectives that we have set out?




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          12
If not, what changes to the proposed reforms or alternative reforms would you
propose to better achieve these objectives?

See responses to subsequent questions.

Chapter 3: National Policy Statements

Q.2     Introduction of national policy statements

We propose that government would, where it deems appropriate and subject
to public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, produce national policy
statements for key infrastructure sectors to clarify government policy, provide
a clearer strategic framework for sustainable development, and remove a
source of delay from inquiries.

Do you agree, in principle, with the introduction of national policy statements
for key infrastructure sectors in order to help clarify government policy,
provide a clearer strategic framework for sustainable development, and
remove a source of delay from inquiries?

Not wholly - see below.

If not, do you have any alternative suggestions for helping to achieve these
objectives?

Whilst the case for a clear framework for nationally significant
infrastructure is supported, the process for their preparation is not.
Reference is made to ‘thorough and effective consultation’ and to
‘opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny before these statements were
finally adopted by the Government’. The County Council is concerned
that neither of these processes would represent truly independent
scrutiny of the Government’s proposals which, in some cases, will be in-
principle decisions on specific schemes. In such circumstances the
proposals would not achieve what the Government is seeking - to
achieve a clear separation of policy and decision making. This process
does not contain the necessary level of independent scrutiny that
schemes of such scale and importance require and which in most cases
are currently subject to inquiry processes.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper        13
Government National Policy Statements on infrastructure require some
form of independent review. There are already approaches within the
planning system for dealing with strategic issues at a regional level
through the process of Examination in Public of Alterations to Regional
Spatial Strategies – chaired by independent Panels appointed by the
Government.       Amongst other matters, these Panels consider
representations on proposals, identify organisations or individuals from
which additional contributions would be useful and, taking views from
all parties involved, come to recommendations to Government. If this
process of scrutiny is considered necessary and important for matters
of regional significance, then the same principle is surely true of
national ones.

The County Council is of the view that public consultation on National
Policy Statements (and accompanying Strategic Environmental
Assessments) should be followed by an Examination in Public to afford
the opportunity for the Government’s proposals to be properly tested in
the public arena in an open, transparent and independent manner. As
with EsiP into RSS Alterations there would be no right to appear at such
events (though anyone should have the right to submit evidence to it),
but it would be helpful if there were to be guidance on likely key
agencies that would need to be involved. Consideration should be
given to statute changes to bring such proposals into effect.

Q.3     Content of national policy statements

The content of national policy statements should include certain core
elements. They would:
        set out the Government‟s objectives for the development of nationally
significant infrastructure in a particular sector and how this could be achieved
in a way which integrated economic, environmental and social objectives to
deliver sustainable development. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
is a procedure for assessing the effects of certain plans and programmes on
the environment and will be an important tool in some cases for ensuring the
impacts of development on the environment are fully understood and taken
into account in national policy statements. National policy statements would
be subject to an appraisal of their sustainability to ensure that the potential
impacts of the policies they contain have been properly considered. Wherever
appropriate we would expect this to be in the form of an SEA;
        indicate how the Government‟s objectives for development in a
particular infrastructure sector had been integrated with other specific
government policies, including other national policy statements, national
planning policy, and any relevant domestic and international policy
commitments;
        show how actual and projected capacity and demand are to be taken
into account in setting the overall policy for infrastructure development. This
would not necessarily take the same form in all national policy statements as
the drivers of need for infrastructure vary and may be more complex and
uncertain for some sectors than for others.



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper         14
        consider relevant issues in relation to safety or technology, and how
these were to be taken into account in infrastructure development;
        indicate any circumstances where it was particularly important to
address adverse impacts of development;
        be as locationally specific as appropriate, in order to provide a clear
framework for investment and planning decisions. Some national policy
statements might, according to circumstances, be locationally specific, while for
others where it would not be appropriate, or sensible, for the Government to direct
where investment should take place, they might specify certain factors affecting
location; and
        include any other particular policies or circumstances that ministers
consider should be taken into account in decisions on infrastructure
development.

Do you agree that national policy statement should cover the core issues set
out above?

Yes.

Are there any other criteria that should be included?

Q.4     Status of national policy statements

We propose that national policy statements would be the primary
consideration for the infrastructure planning commission in determining
applications for development consent for nationally significant infrastructure
projects. The commission would approve any application for development
consent for a nationally significant infrastructure project which had main aims
consistent with the relevant national policy statement, unless adverse local
consequences outweighed the benefits, including national benefits identified
in the national policy statement. Adverse local consequences, for these
purposes, would be those incompatible with relevant EC and domestic law,
including human rights legislation. Relevant domestic law for infrastructure
sectors would be identified in the planning reform legislation.

Do you agree, in principle, that national policy statements should be the
primary consideration for the infrastructure planning commission in
determining individual applications?

Yes, but only under circumstances in which the proposed process
described above (EsiP into National Policy Statements) has already
considered the proposed Statement in the light of other national
guidance (such as Planning Policy Statements). If Statements are not
independently tested, then they should sit alongside all other material
considerations (including Planning Policy Statements) in assisting the
Commission in coming to decisions.

If not, what alternative status would you propose?

See above.


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper            15
Q.5     Consultation on national policy statements

We propose that there should be thorough and effective public consultation on
national policy statements. The precise means of consultation would depend
on the proposed content of national policy statements. However to ensure
consultation is to a high standard, certain principles would need to apply:
       before publishing national policy statements in draft, there should be
thorough consideration of evidence, which may include informally consulting
relevant experts or organisations;
       once published in draft, there should be thorough and effective public
consultation, in line with best practice, on the Government‟s proposals for
national infrastructure needs and policy;
       local, regional and national bodies and statutory agencies with a
particular interest should be consulted;
       where proposals might have a particular bearing on local communities,
there would need to be effective engagement to ensure that such
communities understood the effect of and could express views on the
government‟s proposals, in line with best practice on community involvement
with planning;
       the Government would need to take the consultation responses into
account and explain how they had influenced policy.

We propose that key requirements for consultation would be set out in
legislation, so they have full statutory underpinning.

Do you agree, in principle, that these proposals would ensure effective public
engagement in the production of national policy statements, including with
local communities that might be affected?

Are there any additional measures that would improve public and community
engagement in their production?

See response to question 2.

Q.6     Parliamentary scrutiny

We propose that, as ministers would no longer be taking decisions on
individual applications, draft national policy statements should be subject to
Parliamentary scrutiny.

Do you agree, in principle, with the intention to have Parliamentary scrutiny for
proposed national policy statements?

What mechanisms might ensure appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny?

The National Policy Statements should be subject to Parliamentary
scrutiny in addition to the County Council’s proposal for independent
scrutiny through EiP processes proposed in response to question 2.

Q.7     Timescale of national policy statements


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          16
We propose that national policy statements should, in principle, have a
timeframe of 10-25 years, depending on the sector.

Do you agree, in principle, that 10-25 years is the right forward horizon for
national policy statements?

The timescale of national policy statements will clearly vary depending
on the topics covered. As a general guide, 10-25 years does not seem
unreasonable.

If not, what timeframe do you consider to be appropriate?

Q.8     Review of national policy statements

The Government would consider whether national policy statements remain
up to date, or require review, at least every five years. It should consider
significant new evidence and any changes in circumstances where they arise
and review national policy statements where there is a clear case for doing
so.

Do you agree that five years is an appropriate period for the Government to
consider whether national policy statements remain up to date or require
review?

Yes, unless unforeseen issues clearly point to the need to revisit
statements during the course of any five year period. If the preparation
of statements is satisfactorily robust this eventuality should be rare.

What sort of evidence or circumstances do you think might otherwise justify
and trigger a review of national policy statements?

Q.9     Opportunities for legal challenge

We propose that there would be opportunity to challenge a national policy
statement, or the process of developing it, when it had been published and
that this opportunity would be set out in legislation. The opportunity to
challenge would be open to any member of the public or organisation likely to
be affected by the policy. The grounds for challenge would be illegality,
procedural impropriety or irrationality. Any challenge would have to be brought
within six weeks of publication.

Do you agree, in principle, that this opportunity for legal challenge would
provide sufficient and robust safeguards to ensure that a national policy
statements is sound and that people have confidence in it?

If not, what alternative would you propose?




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper        17
The County Council supports the proposals for legal challenge but
considers that this should be in addition to the proposals set out in
response to question 2 for independent examination of draft statements.
These examinations would be the principal mechanisms through which
to test the soundness of statements, as is the case with development
plans (RSSs/LDDs), not the right to legal challenge.

Q.10 Transitional arrangements

Where relevant policy statements already exist we propose that these should
acquire the status of national policy statements for the purposes of decision
making by the commission. However, in order for this to be possible, they will
need to meet the core elements and standards for national policy statements
with regard to both content and consultation.

Do you agree, in principle, that subject to meeting the core elements and
standards for national policy statements set out in this White Paper, policy
statements in existence on commencement of the new regime should capable
of acquiring the status of national policy statements for the purposes of
decision making by the commission?

No.

If not, what alternative arrangements do you propose?

Existing policy statements on major infrastructure proposals should
only be used for the purposes of decision-making by the Commission
where the proposals are subject to public consultation, examined in
public through the process proposed in response to question 2, have
been subjected to parliamentary scrutiny and where the right to legal
challenge has been satisfied.

Until such time as statements have progressed through these
processes, transitional arrangements should provide for projects to be
subject to the current arrangements, including public inquiry.

Chapter 4: Preparing                 applications         for    nationally   significant
infrastructure projects

Q.11 The preparation of applications

To avoid delays during the decision making process, we propose that
promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects would be required to
prepare applications to a defined standard before the infrastructure planning
commission would agree to consider them.

Do you agree, in principle, that promoters should have to prepare applications
to a defined standard before the infrastructure planning commission agrees to
consider them?



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper                  18
Yes.

Q.12 Consultation by promoters

We propose that promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects
should
and local communities, on their proposals before submitting an application to


Do you agree, in principle, that promoters should be required to consult the
public before submitting an application to the infrastructure planning
commission?

Yes.

Do you think this consultation should take a particular form?

Yes. The Government should commit itself to the preparation of
detailed guidance on what consultation processes will be required of
scheme promoters – the guidelines themselves should be subject to
comprehensive consultation.

Q.13 Consulting local authorities

We propose that promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects
would be required to engage with affected local authorities on their proposals
from early in the project development process.

Do you agree, in principle, that relevant local authorities should have special
status in any consultation?

Yes.

Do you think the local authority role should take a particular form?

No comment.

Q.14 Consulting other organisations

We propose that promoters of nationally significant infrastructure projects
would, depending on the nature of their project, also be required to consult
other public bodies, such as statutory environmental bodies, on their
proposals before submitting an application. For instance:
      Health and Safety Executive
      Relevant directors of public health
      Relevant highway authorities
      Civil Aviation Authority
      Coal Authority
      Environment Agency
      English Heritage


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper        19
        Natural England
        Waste Regulation Authority
        British Waterways Board
        Internal Drainage Boards
        Regional and Local Resilience Fora
        Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
        HM Railway Inspectorate
        Office of Rail Regulation
        National Parks Authorities
        Mayor of London
        Devolved Administrations
        Regional Development Agencies
        Regional Assemblies

Do you agree, in principle, that this list of statutory consultees is appropriate
at the project development stage?

Yes.

Are there any bodies not included who should be?

No comment.

Q.15 Statutory consultees‟ responsibilities

We propose that legislation should impose an upper limit on the time that
statutory consultees have to respond to a promoter‟s consultation.

Do you agree in principle that the Government should set out, in legislation,
an upper limit on the time that statutory consultees have to respond to a
promoter‟s consultation?

Yes.

If so, what time limit would be appropriate?

Inevitably, the scale and complexity of schemes are such that the time
likely to be required to respond to consultations will vary on a case by
case basis. It will also vary on the level of detail consultees are being
consulted on – would this be on near final draft of a formal submission
document with all necessary technical supporting documentation, or
just broad generalities of proposals with little supporting
documentation? There will be a need for clarity on what scheme
promoters should be expected to consult upon as part of the pre-
application consultation.

Perhaps the statutory time limit should be placed on the consultation on
schemes undertaken by the Commission itself, not the scheme
promoter consultations.



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          20
Q.16 The infrastructure planning commission‟s guidance role
We propose that the commission would issue written guidance on the
application process, the procedural requirements and consultation.

Do you agree in principle that the commission should issue guidance for
developers on the application process, preparing applications, and
consultation?

The application process should be something that is determined by
Government and if necessary set out in statute or guidance – what
applications should contain, who is to be consulted, timescales for
consultation, how the application is submitted to the Commission, and
so on.

Are there any other issues on which it might be appropriate for the
commission to issue guidance?

Q.17 The infrastructure planning commission‟s advisory role

The secretariat of the commission would advise promoters and other
interested parties at the pre-application stage on whether the proposed
project fell within its remit, on the application process, procedural
requirements, and consultation.

Do you agree in principle that the commission should advise promoters and
other parties on whether the proposed project falls within its remit to
determine, the application process, procedural requirements, and
consultation?

The Government, in consultation with the Commission, should advise
promoters of schemes whether a project falls within the remit of the
Commission to determine. In all other areas the Commission would
have a duty to advise scheme promoters on all procedural matters.

Are there any other advisory roles which the commission could perform?

There should be a set standard on the quality of applications and all pre-
submission processes. This standard could be adopted as a test of
‘soundness’ of the application, in much the same way as Government
has set soundness tests on parts of the RSS and LDD processes.
Where the soundness tests are not met, the Commission should advise
the scheme promoter that it intends not to consider the application in its
current form. Statute should set out the rules under which the
Commission would operate this function – for example, by setting time
limits within which the Commission should notify applicants if its
decision not to determine an application. Statute should also provide
for the Commission to consult with statutory consultees, with
prescribed timeframes, on whether applications can be considered
sound.



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper     21
Q.18 Rules governing propriety
The Government proposes that there should be propriety rules to govern the
commission‟s interactions with promoters and other parties and ensure that
the commission did not engage with any party in a way which could be seen
to prejudice its decision on an application.

What rules do you consider would be appropriate to ensure the propriety of
the commission‟s interactions with promoters and other parties?

Advice from the Commission to scheme promoters and others should
come only from secretariat and not direct from any commissioners.

Q.19 The commission‟s role at the point of application

We propose that, before agreeing to consider an application, the commission
would need to satisfy itself that:
(a)   the application fell within the commission‟s remit to determine;
(b)   the application had been properly prepared; and
(c)   appropriate consultation had been carried out.

In the event that an application had not been properly prepared or consulted
on, the commission would direct the promoter to do further work before
resubmitting their application. In the event that an application was not
appropriate for the commission to determine, the commission would refuse to
consider it. This would ensure that the commission only took cases that were
appropriate for it to consider, and that it did not begin consideration of cases
without adequate preparation or consultation having been carried out.

Do you agree, in principle, that the commission should have the powers
described above?

Yes. The Commission should also seek the advice of statutory
consultees of the adequacy of applications and on the quality of public
consultation.

Are there any other issues the commission should address before or at the
point of application?

Chapter 5: Determining                 applications        for    nationally   significant
infrastructure projects

Q.20 Scope of infrastructure planning commission

We propose that the commission would deal with development consent
applications for nationally significant transport, water, wastewater and waste
infrastructure in England, and energy infrastructure in England and Wales,
which exceeded statutory thresholds. Chapter 5 of the White Paper sets out
some indicative thresholds:

Energy


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper                   22
(a)     Power stations generating more than 50 megawatts onshore – the
existing Electricity Act 1989 threshold – and 100 megawatts offshore.
(b)     Projects necessary to the operational effectiveness, reliability and
resilience of the electricity transmission and distribution network. This would
be subject to further definition in the relevant national policy statement.
(c)     Major gas infrastructure projects (Liquefied Natural Gas terminals,
above ground installations, and underground gas storage facilities). This
would be subject to further definition in the relevant national policy statement.
(d)     Commercial pipelines above the existing Pipelines Act 1962 threshold
of 16.093 kilometres/10 miles in length and licensed gas transporter pipelines
necessary to the operational effectiveness, reliability and resilience of the gas
transmission and distribution network.

Transport
(e)     Schemes on, or adding to, the Strategic Road Network requiring land
outside of the existing highway boundary. This would be subject to further
definition in the relevant national policy statement.
(f)     A new tarmac runway or infrastructure that increases an airport‟s
capacity by over 5m passengers per year.
(g)     Ports – a container facility with a capacity of 0.5 million teu or greater;
or a ro-ro (including trailers and trade-cars) facility for 250,000 units or
greater; or any bulk or general cargo facility with a capacity for five million
tonnes or greater.

Water and waste
(h)    Dams and other installations designed for the holding back or
permanent storage of water, where a new or additional amount of water held
back or stored exceeds 10 million cubic metres.
(i)    Works for the transfer of water resources, other than piped drinking
water, between river basins or water undertakers‟ supply areas, where the
volume transferred exceeds 100 million cubic metres per year.
(j)    Waste water treatment plants where the capacity exceeds 150,000
population equivalent, and wastewater collection infrastructure that is
associated with such works.
(k)    Energy from waste plants producing more than 50 megawatts – the
existing Electricity Act 1989 threshold.
(l)    Plant whose main purpose is the final disposal or recovery of
hazardous waste, with a permitted hazardous waste throughput capacity in
excess of 30,000 tonnes per annum, or in the case of hazardous waste landfill
or deep storage facility for hazardous waste, a permitted hazardous waste
throughput or acceptance capacity at or in excess of 100,000 tons per annum.

Do you agree, in principle, that these thresholds are appropriate?

Whilst a number of the thresholds replicate ones that already exist the
justification for or definition of others is either not entirely clear or is to
be defined in future national policy statements. The County Council is
of the view that:
       the decision on thresholds should only be deferred to
determination through national policy statements under the


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper            23
circumstances proposed in the draft response for independent scrutiny
of its national policy statements. In this way proposed thresholds would
be subject to full independent scrutiny.
       if the Government is minded not to accept the County Council’s
proposals for independent scrutiny of national policy statements then
when publishing national policy statements the Government should set
out clearly for consultation its justification for the thresholds proposed
and their precise definition, supported by intelligence about, amongst
other matters, where the responsibility for consent/permission currently
rests.

If not, what alternative thresholds would you propose?

Q.21 Electricity system

The inclusion of projects necessary to the operational effectiveness and
resilience of the electricity transmission and distribution network is a particular
issue. Each link of the network is critical to the effectiveness and resilience of
the network as a whole, and thus to ensuring that we can sustainably and
cheaply transport power from generating stations to customers. In the
circumstances, there is no obvious way to draw a line between national and
local projects, although we would be interested in views on where such a line
could be drawn.

Do you agree in principle that all projects necessary to the operational
effectiveness, reliability and resilience of the electricity transmission and
distribution network should be taken by the commission?

Yes, subject to the County Council’s response to previous questions.

If not, which transmission and distribution network projects do you think could
be determined locally?

Q.22 Gas infrastructure
Gas supply infrastructure (eg Liquefied Natural Gas terminals, above ground
installations, underground gas storage facilities and pipelines) is covered by a
number of consenting regimes with decisions confusingly split between
central and local government. As the UK‟s indigenous gas supplies decline
and we move towards increasing import dependence on gas, this
infrastructure is becoming more important to the national need for secure
energy supplies. Whereas, for some other energy infrastructure, there are set
thresholds for responsibility for decision making, this is not currently the case
for gas supply infrastructure as their importance is not necessarily determined
by size. We therefore propose that nationally significant gas supply
infrastructure, as clarified in the relevant national policy statement, should be
considered by the infrastructure planning commission.

Do you agree in principle that the consenting regime for major gas
infrastructure should be simplified and updated, rationalising the regime to
bring nationally significant decision making under the commission?


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper            24
Yes, subject to the County Council’s response to previous questions.

Q.23 Other routes to the infrastructure planning commission

We propose that, in addition to the projects which exceed the proposed
statutory thresholds, the commission would deal with any applications for
projects which:
        were specifically identified as being of national importance in the
national policy statements
        ministers directed should be treated as nationally significant
infrastructure projects. The ministerial power of direction would be exercised
on the basis of clear criteria set out in a ministerial statement, or possibly in
the national statement of policy itself.

Do you agree, in principle, that it is appropriate for ministers to specify
projects for consideration by the commission via national policy statements or
ministerial directions to the commission?

Yes.

If not, how would you propose changing technology or sectoral circumstances
should be accommodated?

Q.24 Rationalization of consent regimes

In order to simplify and streamline the statutory process for nationally
significant infrastructure projects, and ensure that the infrastructure planning
commission is able to grant the authorisations necessary to construct these
projects, we propose to:
        rationalise the different development consent regimes and create, as
far as possible, a unified, single consent regime with a harmonised set of
requirements and procedures; and
        authorise the infrastructure planning commission, under this revised
regime, to grant consents, confer powers and amend legislation, necessary to
implement nationally significant infrastructure projects.
        these authorisations could include:
–       permission to carry out works needed to construct infrastructure
        projects;
–       deemed planning permission;
–       compulsory purchase of land;
–       powers to amend, apply or disapply local and public legislation
        governing infrastructure such as railways or ports;
–       powers to stop up or divert highways or other rights of way or
        navigating rights, both temporarily and permanently;
–       permission to construct associated infrastructure and access land in
        order to do this (eg bridges, pipelines, overhead power lines and
        wayleaves);
–       Listed Building Consent, Conservation Area Consent, and Scheduled
        Monument Consent;1


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          25
–      hazardous substances consent;
–     creation of new rights over land, including rights of way, navigating
      rights and easements;
–      powers to lop or fell trees; and
–      powers to authorise any other matters ancillary to the construction and
operation of works which can presently be authorised by ministerial orders.

Do you agree, in principle, that the commission should be authorized to grant
consents, confer powers including powers to compulsorily purchase land and
amend legislation necessary to implement nationally significant infrastructure
projects?

The Commission should only be charged with giving such a wide range
of consents where the process has adequately facilitated full examination
of all the relevant issues. It is highly unlikely that commissioners and
their secretariat will have the necessary broad range of skills to enable
the Commission to issue consents in a wide range of different technical
fields – planning, waste licensing, discharge to watercourse consents,
listed buildings, and so on. Inevitably, the Commission will be heavily
reliant upon the advice of specific and often statutory organisations.
Under these circumstances the issue is really therefore about ensuring
that the Commission is adequately informed on these matters by
responsible agencies, particularly as presumably these would be the
bodies who would be required to enforce any restrictions to consents.
This should be an integral part of the consideration process.

The Commission should not be provided with powers to directly amend
legislation.

Are there any authorisations listed that it would be appropriate to deal with
separately, and if so which body should approve them, or that are not included
and should be?

Subject to the above, no.

Q.25 The commission‟s mode of operation

We propose that the board of the commission would appoint a panel of
members (usually three to five) to examine and determine the major
applications but that, where it did not feel that a full panel would be required,
the Board of the commission should have discretion to delegate the
examination of smaller and less complex cases to a single commissioner with
the commission‟s secretariat.

Do you agree, in principle, that the proposed arrangements for the commission to
deal with cases is an appropriate way to ensure that consideration is
proportionate and that an appropriate range of specialist expertise is brought to
bear on the final decision?

Yes.


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          26
If not, what changes or alternative mode of operation would you propose?

Q.26 Preliminary stages

Once an application was accepted, the commission would secure notification
of and consultation with affected individuals, the public, relevant local
authorities and, depending on the nature of the application, other public
bodies such as:
       Health and Safety Executive
       Relevant directors of public health
       Relevant highway authorities
       Civil Aviation Authority
       Coal Authority
       Environment Agency
       English Heritage
       Natural England
       Waste regulation authority
       British Waterways Board
       Internal Drainage Boards
       Regional and Local Resilience Fora
       Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
       HM Railway Inspectorate
       Office of Rail Regulation
       National Parks Authorities
       Mayor of London
       Devolved Administrations
       Regional Development Agencies
       Regional Assemblies

Do you agree in principle that the list of statutory consultees set out above is
appropriate at the determination stage?

Yes.

Are there any bodies not included who should be?

No comment.

Q.27 Examination

We propose that
       the majority of evidence, given its likely technical nature, should be
given in writing, although the commission would have discretion to call
witnesses to give oral evidence where it felt that it would help it to understand
the issues, or asking a witness to give evidence in writing might disadvantage
them.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          27
       the commission would test this evidence itself by means of direct
questions, rather than relying on opposing counsel to test it via a process of
cross-examination – though it would have discretion to conduct or invite
cross-examination of witnesses, if it felt that this would better test the
evidence.
       the commission would organise an “open floor” stage where interested
parties could have their say about the application, within a defined period of
time, where there was demand for it.
       the examination and determination process should be subject to a
statutory time limit of no longer than nine months (six months for the
examination and three for the decision), but that for particularly difficult cases,
the commission might decide that it needed longer to probe the evidence
before they could reach a decision.

Do you agree in principle that the procedural reforms set out above would
improve the speed, efficiency and predictability of the consideration of
applications, while maintaining the quality of consideration and improving the
opportunities for effective public participation?

Generally yes, however, statutory consultees should be given the right
to present evidence as witnesses.

If not, what changes or other procedural reforms might help to achieve these
objectives?

Q.28 Hard to reach groups

We recognise that some communities can find it hard to engage with formal
inquiry processes and may not readily come forward, even though they may
be affected by proposals. We are determined to ensure that affected groups
and communities can participate effectively and make their views heard in the
process. We propose to build upon the long and impressive tradition in
planning of people who have found ways to reach out locally, to engage
communities and give voice to people who are not usually heard. We propose
that, alongside the introduction of the new infrastructure planning system, we
will increase grant funding for bodies such as Planning Aid by up to £1.5
million a year so that they can extend their activities and help such groups get
involved on site-specific proposals in national policy statements and in the


What measures do you think would better enable hard to reach groups to
make their views heard in the process for nationally significant infrastructure
projects?

The text supporting Q12 clearly places the onus for public consultation
on scheme promoters. As such it should be the responsibility of
scheme promoters to ensure that hard to reach groups are consulted on
their proposals.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper            28
How might local authorities and other bodies, such as Planning Aid, be
expected to assist in engaging local communities in the process?

Traditionally, local authorities hold public meetings and are available to
advise on applications they determine. However, under the proposals in
the White Paper, the scheme promoter is given the prime responsibility
for public consultation. Under these circumstances, the advisory role
should also rest with the scheme promoter. Local authorities would still
be available to communities in circumstances where the community
either feel uncomfortable dealing with scheme promoters or where
those dealings prove unfruitful.

In terms of preparing views for submission to the Commission, local
authorities will determine their own views on schemes and will wish to
advance these. However, these may not necessarily be the same as
those of local groups within the communities and so there is unlikely to
be a role for hard and fast rules on local authorities assisting local
communities in preparing their submissions as conflict of issues
matters are raised.

Q.29 Decision

We propose that the commission would approve any application for
development consent for a nationally significant infrastructure project which
had main aims consistent with the relevant national policy statement, unless
adverse local consequences outweighed the benefits, including national
benefits identified in the national policy statement. Adverse local
consequences, for these purposes, would be those incompatible with relevant
EC and domestic law, including human rights legislation. Relevant domestic
law for infrastructure sectors would be identified in the planning reform
legislation.

Do you agree that the commission should decide applications in line with the
framework set out above?

No. The County Council has concerns about the wisdom of allowing
decisions of national significance to be taken by an unelected body. In
the case of schemes for which the Government is currently the decision-
maker the Commission should, taking into consideration all available
evidence and the views of all parties, make recommendations to
Government. The final decision on any proposals would then rest with
Government. Whilst one of the Government’s objectives is to reduce
the number of decisions made by it, the number of nationally significant
schemes should not be excessive.

For schemes which local authorities are currently the decision-maker it
is difficult to envisage how the Government’s proposals would achieve
its objectives to ‘improve public participation across the entire process
by providing better opportunities for public engagement at each stage of
the development process’. What the Government seems principally to


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper      29
be seeking to achieve in proposing the Commission is the removal of
overly-lengthy public inquiries, the prime contributors for this being the
manner in which they operate and the time taken up by in-principle
matters upon which decisions have already been made. On the latter
point, the proposals for national policy statements should ensure that
in-principle decision-making is not rehearsed or re-rehearsed for
schemes when they come in for determination. On the former point, the
Government’s proposals remove the role of public inquiries with those
for the operation of the Commission – more reliance on written
evidence, public examination focussed on key issues addressed by the
Commission, open-floor sessions, and so on.

The County Council considers that under these circumstances there is
no case for entire removal of decision-making from democratically
elected local authorities. Local authorities should be able to make
decisions within the context of national policy statements and taking
fully into account the views of local communities.            Where local
authorities would be minded to refuse, however, proposals could be
referred to the Commission for determination (or to come to
recommendations for Government under the County Council’s
proposals). Whilst this process would possibly take longer than the
Government’s anticipated decision-making timeframe, it would not be
substantively longer, would engrain democratic accountability, facilitate
greater community involvement and in the context of the timeframe for
bringing forward such schemes it would not be excesive. Detailed
proposals could ensure that local authorities are timely in their decision-
making. Strict timeframes could be introduced, applications could
default to the Commission if timescales are breached, local authorities
could refer applications to the Commission under prescribed
circumstances, etc.

If not, what changes should be made or what alternative considerations should it
use?

Q.30 Conditions
We propose that the commission would, where it approved an application,
specify any conditions, such as mitigation measures, that the promoter would
have to comply with. Any conditions would need to be imposed for a purpose
directly related to the project and not for any other purpose; would have to be
fair and reasonably relate to the development permitted; would have to be
precise and enforceable; and could not be so unreasonable that no
reasonable authority could have imposed them. The commission would also
be obliged to assess the costs, impacts and benefits of proposed mitigation
options and satisfy itself that the required measures are a proportionate and
efficient solution.

Do you agree in principle that the commission should be able to specify
conditions in this way, subject to the limitations identified, and for local
authorities to then enforce them?



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper         30
The Commission will not have the technical expertise to draft detailed
matters to be covered in permissions/consents operating under different
regulatory regimes and that relate to how a development is to come
forward and how it is to be used. If the statutory responsibility for
issuing permissions and consents is to be taken away from those with
existing control and given to the Commission it will need to rely heavily
on the advice of the various regulatory bodies with current statutory
responsibilities on these matters. This would need to be an integral part
of the examination process. Detailed matters upon which the scheme
promoters and the regulatory bodies are not in agreement would be
likely to be required to be heard directly by the Commission in an oral
manner.

It should not be for the Commission to assess the costs, impacts and
benefits of mitigation measures. These will be explored by the scheme
promoters and regulatory bodies as part of the process of the
examination. The Commission’s role will be to come to a view on these
matters.

If not what alternative approach would you propose?

Q.31 Rights of challenge

We propose that there would be opportunity to challenge a decision by the
infrastructure planning commission or the process of reaching it, when the
commission‟s decision had been published and that this opportunity would be
set out in legislation. The opportunity to challenge would be open to any
member of the public or organisation likely to be affected by the decision. The
grounds for challenge would be illegality, procedural impropriety or irrationality
(including proportionality). Any challenge would have to be brought within six
weeks of publication.

Do you agree, in principle, that this opportunity for legal challenge to a
decision by the infrastructure planning commission provides a robust
safeguard that will ensure decisions are taken fairly and that people have
confidence in them?

Yes.

If not what alternative would you propose?

Q.32 Commission‟s skill set

We propose that commissioners would be appointed for their expertise in
fields such as national and local government, community engagement,
planning, law, engineering, economics, business, security, environment,
heritage, and health, as well as, if necessary, specialist technical expertise
related to the particular sector.

What experience and skills do you think the commission would need?


Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper           31
No comment.

1.b. Proposals to reform the town and country planning system

Chapter 7: A positive framework for delivering sustainable development

Q.33 Delivering more renewable energy

There is an urgent need to make quick progress in extending permitted
development on micro generation to non residential land uses. To help realise
a further portion of the potential for renewable energy, we will review and
wherever possible extend permitted development rights on microgeneration to
other types of land use including commercial and agricultural development.

What types of non residential land and property do you think might have the
greatest potential for microgeneration and which should we examine first?

Consideration should be given to all non residential land and property,
though commercial development would be likely to be the next most
logical sector to target in terms of having greatest impact in increasing
the use of microgeneration.

Chapter 8: Strengthening the role of local authorities in place shaping

Q.34 Joined up community engagement

We propose to seek legislation to remove the requirement for the independent
examination of the separate planning Statements of Community Involvement,
using instead the new “duty to involve” as the means of ensuring high
standards across all local authority and local strategic partnership activities.
We think it is important to enable a more joined up approach to community
engagement locally. We propose to use the new “duty to involve” to ensure
high standards but remove the requirement for the independent examination
of the separate planning Statements of Community Involvement. Do you
agree?

Yes.

Q.35 More flexible response to a successful legal challenge

Subject to finding a legally robust way forward, we propose to seek legislation
to enable the High Court to order that a plan is sent back to an earlier stage of
its process rather than back to the start. This proposal would also apply to a
Regional Spatial Strategy.

Do you agree that the High Court should be able to direct a plan (both at local
and regional level) to be returned to an earlier stage in its preparation
process, rather than just the very start?



Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper          32
Yes.

Q.36 Removing the requirement to list Supplementary Planning Documents
in Local Development Schemes

We propose to seek legislation to remove the requirement that all SPDs must
be listed in the local development scheme which means that local planning
authorities will be able to produce them without reference to central
government.

Do you agree, in principle, that there should not be a requirement for
supplementary planning documents to be listed in the local development
scheme.

Yes.

Q.37 Sustainability appraisal and Supplementary Planning Documents

We propose to seek legislation to remove the requirement for a sustainability
appraisal for every supplementary planning document but we will consult on
guidance which makes it clear that a sustainability appraisal should be
undertaken for SPDs which have significant social, environmental or
economic effects which have not been covered in the appraisal of the parent
DPD or where EU law26 requires a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Do you agree in principle that there should not be a blanket requirement for
supplementary planning documents to have a sustainability appraisal, unless
there are impacts that have not been covered in the appraisal of the parent
DPD or an assessment is required by the SEA directive?

Yes.

Chapter 9: Making the planning system more efficient and effective

Q.38 Permitted development for non domestic land and buildings

We propose to extend the impact approach to permitted development to other
types of development such as industrial or commercial buildings as
appropriate subject to certain limitations and conditions.

Which types of non residential development offer the greatest potential for
change to permitted development rights? What limitations might be
appropriate for particular sorts of development and local circumstances?

No comment.

Q.39 Neighbour Agreements




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper      33
Kate Barker proposed the development of a voluntary system, probably for
smaller developments, whereby if there was agreement between a developer
and neighbours affected, a full planning application would not be required.
Kate Barker argued that this could make the process easier for householders
in situations where those affected by the development are content for it to
proceed, and so avoid small applications unnecessarily placing a burden on
local planning authorities. We have a number of concerns about how this
might work in practice, but welcome views.

What is your view on the general principle of introducing a streamlined
process for approval of minor development which does not have permitted
development rights and where the neighbours to the proposed development
are in agreement?

Firstly, the proposal is open to abuse. It raises the potential for
neighbours’ legitimate concerns to be overcome by a proposed
developer through means other than revisions to a scheme – financial,
for example, or even intimidation.

Secondly, neighbours are not permanent features. What is acceptable
to a current (or not acceptable but the concern has been overcome in an
inappropriate manner) would not necessarily be acceptable to potential
future owners/occupiers – though it could be argued that any potential
owner/occupier would simply choose not to own or occupy.

Thirdly, the impact of even small scale development can be felt wider
than immediate neighbours, but the concerns of parties in the wider
area would be unlikely to feature in any neighbour agreement.

Fourthly, the proposals would not enable the cumulative impacts of
successive minor developments to be assessed.

Q.40 Minor amendments of planning permission
We propose to amend primary legislation so as to allow, at the request of the
applicant, discretion for the local planning authority to vary an existing
planning permission where they consider that the variation sought is not
material.

Do you agree that it should be possible to allow minor amendments to be
made to a planning permission?

Yes.

Do you agree with the approach?

Yes, but only where there is a requirement to make the community,
relevant agencies and other organisations aware of proposals for and
intentions to allow such minor amendments.




Committees/County Council/Reports/17 July 2007/Item 13 – white paper      34

				
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