Final death blow for UK infra planning body

The Infrastructure Planning Commission is, as expected, one of the 192 quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that have today been officially abolished by the UK’s coalition government.

A list drawn up today by the UK government’s Cabinet Office confirms one of the worst-kept secrets – that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has been officially wound up.

The IPC will be one of 192 quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations, or quangos, that will be scrapped by the UK. Quangos are government-created and financed organisations that operate at arm's length from the government.  

The IPC be replaced by a new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit within the Planning Inspectorate, which is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This sees the approval process for major infrastructure works brought back “in-house” after the abolition of the previous Labour administration’s IPC, an organisation that was launched in October 2009.

The stated aim of the IPC had been to streamline the planning process for projects of national importance by replacing eight former planning systems with a single process – thereby reducing the gestation time of infrastructure planning decisions from up to seven years to less than a year.

But when in opposition, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had dismissed the IPC as unaccountable. Although the IPC had 42 proposals at “pre-application” stage, involving consultations and environmental impact assessments, none had been formally submitted.

Speaking to the BBC, minister of state at the Department for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark said: “New infrastructure is critical to the country’s return to economic growth and we believe we must have a fast track system for major projects – but it must be accountable.”

“The previous system lacked any democratic legitimacy by giving decision-making power away to a distant quango on issues critical to every community in the country,” Clark explained.

Today’s move sees 192 quangos scrapped, 118 merged and 380 retained.