UK’s fast-track planning scheme underway

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), launched in October 2009 to make the application process for large UK infrastructure projects “faster, fairer and easier”, has this week begun considering applications from the energy and transport sectors.

Launched late last year, the UK’s Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has this week begun receiving applications for energy projects which it says have the potential to provide “up to £50 billion (€55 billion; $75 billion) worth of investment and supply electricity to 22 million homes”. It is also considering applications for transport projects.

In a statement, the IPC said energy schemes waiting to be considered have a combined 22 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity, and that many of the projects will produce renewable energy as part of the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The IPC is an independent body set up under the UK government’s 2008 Planning Act which offers a new consent process for large projects such as wind farms, power stations and major roads. It combines up to eight former planning processes into a single process, and claims that it can cut the time taken to make approval decisions from seven years to less than a year. It estimates that this could save the UK £300 million a year.

In its statement, the IPC says that, under the old regime, planning applications would be held up for years by red tape – in some cases taking ten years between a company’s decision to invest in a new project and the delivery of energy to the national grid. It cites the North Yorkshire Power Line upgrade as having taken more than six years to get a decision.

Among the projects being considered by the IPC are the Atlantic Array windfarm project led by RWE NPower in the Bristol Channel and Blyth biomass power plant project led by RES New Ventures in Northumberland.