Magazine article Public Finance

Planning Body Must Minimise Legal Threats

Magazine article Public Finance

Planning Body Must Minimise Legal Threats

Article excerpt

The chair-designate of the government s new planning quango has warned that decisions made by the body are likely to be challenged in the courts.

In a pre-appointment hearing at the communities and local government select committee, Sir Michael Pitt - the government s preferred candidate to head the Infrastructure Planning Commission told MPs that the commission would need to prepare carefully for dealing with controversial planning applications.

'Given the importance and scale of some of the applications, there is a real risk that judicial review could get in the way he said. 'Therefore I think the commission must think and act very carefully indeed.'

'I don't think we can prevent the risk of judicial review, but we can take steps to minimise it,' he added.

One way of doing so was to ensure that the Whitehall-generated national policy statements, which will direct much of the infrastructure development in England, were very clearly drafted, he said.

The IPC was established under the Planning Act 2008 to decide on planning applications for infrastructure projects of national importance, such as transport schemes and power plants.

The organisation will operate in shadow form from June this year, advising developers before ruling on planning applications in 2010.

The decision to set up a national planning body has proved controversial in some quarters, with environmental groups threatening civil disobethence and the Conservatives questioning its independence.

Pitt defended the commission, saying that the existing system was unsatisfactory, and often placed ministers in the uncomfortable position of both submitting and ruling on planning applications. …

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