UK infra planning body to open this year(3)

The Infrastructure Planning Commission is set to open in October this year. The new body will oversee planning applications for all major infrastructure projects in the UK, with an emphasis on streamlining the process and reducing gestation times.

A new governmental body to oversee the planning aspects of major infrastructure projects in the UK is set to come into force later this year.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission, originally unveiled last year as part of the Planning Act, will be open for business in October, and will subsequently start accepting planning applications from the energy and transport sectors in March 2010.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the commission will streamline the process for major infrastructure projects including wind farms, power stations and railway lines. The new commission is intended to improve on the existing regime by providing a more efficient, transparent and accessible process in order to deliver large scale infrastructure schemes off the drawing board into implementation more quickly.

Housing and planning minister John Healey said the commission will help deliver a fairer, faster planning system for infrastructure projects which should reduce the gestation period of planning decisions from around seven years to under a year. He added that the new regime could save the government around £300 million (€346 million; $493 million) each year.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will be chaired by Sir Michael Pitt, chair of the South West Strategic Health Authority, with Pauleen Lane, a member of Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council, and Robert Upton, secretary-general of the Royal Town Planning Institute, the preferred candidates for the roles of deputy chairs.