A COUPLE of interesting cases in planning and strategic infrastructure were announced last week. The first is Government’s decision not to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay.
The second is the decision to relocate Lord Londonderry’s statue in the centre of Durham City. I know there are those who believe this is disrespectful to our heritage but there are others who do not care much for the noble Lord, whose lack of compassion for the mining community is well recorded.
So I am delighted that the Government has established the Infrastructure Planning Commission to reform the system.
This gives all the parties involved in major infrastructure plans the opportunity to put forward their views before applications are lodged and throughout their examination.
There are seven pre-application stages of project development and consultation; validation within 28 days to check application meets requirements; pre-examination of the promoter to inform relevant parties of the application and deadline for initial representations; pre-examination by commissioner or panel to carry out initial assessment and preliminary meeting; examine within six months, including written representations and possible hearings; commission within three months to issue a decision and statement of reason; and a post-decision six week window for legal challenge.
I welcome this, it respects the right of everyone to protest against major issues, but it also allows the commission to consider the national interest.
For example, we have debated far too long about alternative forms of energy, including nuclear.
We are well off the programme and are therefore under pressure to perform as a country and there is a stark choice. That choice must, however, still respect the democratic right to protest and to object, but the protesters must also respect that decisions have to be taken in the public interest.
The Lord Londonderry statue has seen the most professional and thorough public consultation over many months. Finally the local authority has shown leadership to provide a focal point for the city.
A good decision but we should be aware that such a performance in public can put off investors.
Consensus is crucial and we need to use every weapon in the armoury – even the RICS is playing a part, having established a planning and environmental mediation service to help facilitate and address objections which slow down the planning process.
Kevan Carrick is partner in JK Property Consulting and policy spokesman for RICS North East.