Nationally significant infrastructure
The Planning Act 2008 introduced a new planning system for nationally significant infrastructure projects. The system is underpinned by a series of National Policy Statements. These documents explain the Government's policy on different types of infrastructure project. As at November 2015, the Government had introduced ten National Policy Statements. They cover policies on energy (six policy statements in all), ports, 'national networks' (ie road and rail infrastructure), hazardous waste and waste water. There is currently no National Policy Statement on airports or water supply.
Applications for consent for new infrastructure projects are dealt with under a timetabled procedure. Developers wanting to apply for consent must first consult local communities and groups that may be affected by the project. This is known as the 'pre-application' stage. Applications are then dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate's National Infrastructure Directorate. Planning Inspectors examine the application, and give interested parties an opportunity to provide comments. They may hold a public hearing.
Once the Inspectors have finished examining the application, they make recommendations to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State then makes a final decision. The Secretary of State will apply the policies in relevant National Policy Statements when taking decisions. The Secretary of State will also take into account any matter he/she considers important and relevant.
National Infrastructure Commission
The Government set up a new National Infrastructure Commission on 5 October 2015. Legislation is expected shortly that will set out the Commission's powers and duties.
The Government has stated that the Commission will report on the country's infrastructure needs, every five years. The government will have to respond to the Commission's recommendations, either accepting them or setting out how the government will develop alternatives. Relevant work and evidence should feed into the National Policy Statements.