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Ministers to take major infrastructure decisions

Ministers are to take charge of major infrastructure planning applications following the abolition of a quango set up to fast-track decision-making, the Government has announced.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) - created only last year by the former Labour government - is to be scrapped in keeping with the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition agreement.

Major planning projects like offshore windfarms and nuclear power stations will in future be handled by a new Major Infrastructure Planning Unit within the Planning Inspectorate.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said, as a result, elected ministers rather than unelected commissioners would be taking the decisions.

Matt Thomson, head of policy at the Royal Town Planning Institute said he welcomed the latest clarification of ‘function’ following the demise of the IPC. He said: ‘It is critical that there is a specialist body with the skills and expertise to consider proposals for essential major infrastructure projects to allow decisions to be made in the national interest.

‘We believe that people’s confidence in the system will be strengthened by the commitment that final decisions.’

In an indication of further planning reform being considered by the Government, George Osborne said local communities should be offered greater financial incentives in return for nearby planning projects.

The Chancellor said the current system of section 106 agreements - whereby developers offer services or amenities if their applications are approved - was inadequate.

‘At the moment there is absolutely no incentive for a local community to accede to a planning request,’ Osborne said.

‘They see none of the economic gain that comes from planning decisions.

‘We want to change the incentives in planning so there are direct economic benefits for local communities,’ he said, suggesting that that could be done through council tax or business rates.’


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