Ministers rule out fast-track process for retail schemes

Ministers do not intend to include major retail schemes among the large-scale business projects that the government is proposing to add to the fast-track planning regime for major infrastructure, a consultation document has revealed.

Bluewater: such major retail schemes would not be added to fast-track regime
Bluewater: such major retail schemes would not be added to fast-track regime

Under plans contained in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, developers would be able to submit major business and commercial applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) as nationally significant infrastructure projects.

A consultation document on the plans, published yesterday, includes large office, research and development, manufacturing and warehousing developments among the types of developments that could be categorised as major infrastructure under the proposals (complete list below).

But the consultation document rules out including retail in the list of developments that could be referred to PINS for a fast-track decision.

The consultation document says: "The secretary of state is minded to exclude retail projects from the list of types of project to be included in regulations.

"The effect of this would be that responsibility for determining planning applications for retail proposals would remain with local planning authorities."

The consultation document also says that developments "that include a permanent element of housing cannot be directed into the nationally significant infrastructure planning regime". A Number 10 press release in September had said that major residential applications – as well as big commercial ones – would be added to the fast-track process.

The document also reveals that the government does not intend to prepare national policy statements (NPS) for the new category of business and commercial development.

NPSs provide the framework within which inspectors make their recommendations for decisions to the relevant secretary of state.

The consultation document says: "Given the wide range of developments which could be included within the new commercial or business category, and the focus on providing this as an opt-in route for developers with the vast majority of business and commercial applications remaining with local authorities for decision, we do not think the case for one or more NPSs is strong."

But last week, during a Growth and Infrastructure Bill committee session, Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) chief executive Trudi Elliott and Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) chief planner Dr Hugh Ellis said that a national policy statement would be necessary in order for the measure to work effectively.

The government is also consulting on plans to expand and improve the ‘one stop shop’ approach for (non-planning) consents for the planning regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Both consultations close on 7 January 2013.

Table: proposed types of development and thresholds

Type of Development

Where the project meets the following threshold

Offices and research and development facilities

Over 40,000m2 gross internal floorspace

Manufacturing and processing proposals

Over 40,000m2 gross internal floorspace

Warehousing, storage and distribution

Over 40,000m2 gross internal floorspace

Conference and exhibition centres

Over 40,000m2 gross internal floorspace

Leisure, tourism and sports and recreation

Area – over 100 hectares

Sports Stadia where the seating capacity is a minimum 40,000 seats

Deep mined coal

All proposals

Onshore oil and gas extraction

over 500 tonnes per day for petroleum and 500,000 cubic metres per day for gas

Other mining and quarrying proposals

over 100 hectares

Mixed-use development including, for example, mixed-use business parks.

(Mixed-use includes one or more of the above uses but does not include housing development or where retail is a main use.)

Over 100,000m2 floorspace

Nationally significant infrastructure planning: extending the regime to business and commercial projects is available here.

Nationally significant infrastructure planning: expanding and improving the ‘one stop shop’ approach for consents
is available here.

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