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COMMENT


all these objections about the IPC’s lack of democratic accountability.


“I think that the new Bill doesn’t go far enough. It’s a very complicated arrange- ment. It makes the Transport & Works Act (TWA) regime, which was the process until now applied to main line railways, look like a dream in comparison.


“The new process is that, normally, once the relevant National Policy Statement is in place for the sector concerned, the indi- vidual schemes are then progressed by the developers consulting on them, who then in effect develop their application for consent to the IPC – at the moment. That’s called an application for a Development Consent Or- der. The equivalent of a TWA order is now your DCO, which, if you’re successful, is an order made by the IPC saying you can go ahead and build and operate and maintain that particular project. It will set out all the conditions and everything else that govern the ways in which you can implement the project and give you compulsory purchase powers.”


Main lines


“The idea is, certainly for enhancements to main line railways owned by Network Rail, that this process will replace the TWA re- gime”, Owen continued. “Whereas, things like trams, the DLR, and the Underground in London, because they’re not generally part of the national rail network, they are not subject to this new process.


“For example, we’re working on a couple of rail schemes that you’d think should now be Planning Act projects through the IPC, but they’re not going to be; you have to, in essence, be a railway where Network Rail is the operator.”


Is NIPA’s mission, as regards rail, to re- duce the cost and complexity of providing new infrastructure – or to ensure that more proposals get through the planning system in the fi rst place?


Owen said: “I wouldn’t say that the worst evils that the new system was designed to cure were peculiar to rail. People always quote the long time taken to build Heath- row Terminal 5. There were rail projects like Thameslink 2000, as it used to be called, that took forever to go through the planning process, and the intention is that this new process will not take as long and will be subject to strict timetabling. It should allow for, by and large, the process to be done in 12-15 months. It is intended to give more certainty about the timescales involved.


38 | rail technology magazine Jun/Jul 11 The future


The IPC is one of the youngest victims of the Coalition Government’s reforms, having been born in October 2009, and due to be scrapped when the Localism Bill comes into force early next year.


The IPC explains the situation on its own website: “The Localism Bill…contains provision to abolish the IPC and transfer its functions to the Secretary of State. A new major infrastructure team within the Planning Inspectorate will be established to handle the relevant casework. Appointed persons within the Inspectorate will make a recommendation on applications to the relevant Secretary of State. Other than this, the procedures for obtaining development consent remain largely unchanged by the Bill, though we encourage anyone interested in the detailed changes to follow the progress of the Bill through Parliament or get in touch.


“How schemes already with the IPC are to be handled, under the current proposals in the Bill, will be subject to individual direction by the Secretary of State. The IPC and Planning Inspectorate are working closely to ensure that there will be a seamless transfer to the new arrangements.”


Announcing its abolition last year, decentralisation minister Greg Clark dismissed the IPC as a “distant quango” that wasted too much money.


Those welcoming the abolition were mostly campaign groups hopeful that putting ministers back in charge would give local opponents of development greater say, while organisations that are most concerned with getting infrastructure built were worried that the IPC’s abolition was a backwards step. Head of the Institute of Directors, Miles Templeman, said: “We remain concerned that if decisions rest with ministers, projects will be delayed or blocked for political reasons.”


“But at the moment I think it’s likely to prove to be more expensive than the old process, although that’s just a hunch. The new process is much more elaborate than the TWA regime. But, that said, if you can do it in 15 months, not 24, that in itself has a signifi cant time and cost saving. The longer a project goes on, by its nature, the more expensive it becomes.


“The intention is to make the system more up-to-date and modern and transparent and effective; more of a one-stop-shop. There should be more certainty, both on the policy base with the National Policy Statements meant to be underpinning the new regime, and more certainty on how long things are going to take.


“But, given the exacting requirements of the new regime, the cynic might say well, it just means you’re spending much longer at the front end of the process before you’re even able to put your application in.


“Therefore, you can’t just look at the time taken from application through to when you get your powers; you’ve got to look at


the whole timescale from initial conception through to getting your order through.


“That whole process might be longer, be- cause of the very exacting requirements of the procedure. There’s no doubt about it, the IPC is very risk averse at the moment.


“It has received four applications; two are energy from waste projects by Covanta, and the other two are Network Rail schemes submitted in the last couple of weeks.”


One of these is the North Doncaster Rail Chord, and the other is the Ipswich Rail Chord. Network Rail has agreed to be part of NIPA, and Owen said he thought the aims of the two or- ganisations should be similar.


He concluded: “This is all about getting a more fair and effi - cient outcome.”


Robbie Owen


FOR MORE INFORMATION Visit www.nipa.org.uk


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