Planning, building and the environment

Transition to the Planning Act as amended by the Localism Act 2011

On 15 November 2011 the Localism Act 2011 received Royal Assent. The Government thinks it now appropriate to give a clearer outline of its plans to ensure that major infrastructure cases transfer seamlessly from the Infrastructure Planning Commission to the Planning Inspectorate.

Section 129 of the Act provides the Secretary of State with general powers to make transitional provision governing how applications, or proposed applications, to the Commission should be handled once the Commission has been abolished.

The direction is presently being drafted, and will be published in draft form well in advance of the abolition of the Commission to provide all parties with an interest with certainty as to how transition will be handled. However, before then, the Government believes it will be helpful to set out the approach being taken to drafting the direction.

The direction may only apply to applications, or proposed applications, where notice has been given under section 46 of the Planning Act 2008 that a promoter intends to make an application under that Act. Applications which have not yet reached that stage will not have engaged with the regime sufficiently to require a direction (a direction will not be needed where the Commission has issued a screening or scoping opinion, or has authorised entry onto land - Commission authority for these matters will still stand after transition).

The Government intends the direction to be structured in two parts. The first part will make general provision in respect of those projects for which a section 46 notice has been given as of the date of abolition, to the effect that:

  • anything done in relation to those projects for the purpose of complying with the Planning Act 2008 is to be treated as if it had been done under the legislation as amended
  • anything done by or in relation to the Infrastructure Planning Commission shall be treated as if it had been done by or in relation to the Secretary of State

The second part will deal with any provision that needs to be made for individual cases, should specific provision be necessary (for example to ensure that, notwithstanding the abolition of the Commission, the consideration of a particular application can continue without a change in persons appointed).

Until the Localism Act is commenced, promoters are expected to continue to act in compliance with the Planning Act 2008 as it presently stands. Section 129 permits the Secretary of State to apply the 2008 Act with modifications, and he will consider using this power to ensure that promoters have properly complied with any requirements that are subsequently modified by the Localism Act.

Promoters of projects are encouraged to liaise closely with the Commission in the weeks leading up to abolition to ensure that any activity carried out in this period is carefully planned, and to enable all necessary matters to be accounted for in the direction. This will help to ensure the transitional period passes smoothly.

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