Speed up the consenting process but strengthen planning and public accountability

TAN today welcomed Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ announcements on planning reform for large infrastructure projects [1], in particular her pledge to update National Policy Statements (NPSs). This is something that TAN has flagged up consistently, threatening to take the Government to court three times [2] before the Government finally agreed to review the National Networks NPS in July 2021 [3]. More than two years later and the draft NPS that was consulted on this summer is barely any better than the old version [4] and is still months away from being adopted.

However, TAN warned Labour not to blame delays on local communities or the planning system per se. These are not the problems. The biggest hold ups in moving large infrastructure projects through the planning system are often due to incompetent developers, running poor consultations with misleading information and poor options appraisal processes [5]. This combined with out of date NPSs have led to the most significant delays.

TAN is also concerned that the existing Government consultation on speeding up planning focussed on the Examination process. This is already difficult for the public to engage with and as the consultation itself admitted, shortening this already tight timescale could break international law [6].

Chris Todd, director of TAN said:

“We welcome Labour’s pledge to update the National Policy Statements. The NPS for roads and rail is nearly 9 years old and was drafted before the Paris Agreement, net-zero and a host of other policy changes. The Government agreed to review it over 2 years ago but is still dragging its feet over this.

“However, we caution Labour not to blame the planning system, or those concerned about the impacts of big infrastructure projects on local communities. They are not the problem. It is the competency of Government and developers which is the issue. Badly designed projects with poor consultations containing misleading information have led to significant delays to projects before planning. Equally, the Government often fails to make a decision within its 3 month deadline. These are the areas Labour needs to focus on reforming, to speed up the process, while ensuring it doesn’t penalise local communities further.”

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors

[1] Rachel Reeves speech today at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool

[2] See TAN’s website for more details

[3] The Government announced it was reviewing the National Networks National Policy Statement (the NPS for roads and rail) in July 2021 when it published its Transport Decarbonisation Plan (page 5)

[4] The draft NNNPS was published in March 2023. TAN’s response to the draft NNNPS consultation is here. The Transport Committee is due to publish its report on the draft NNNPS by 20 October.

[5] This has certainly been the case with roads and National Highways. Examples include: A27 Arundel Bypass, A303 Stonehenge, A5036 Port of Liverpool Access Road and Lower Thames Crossing

[6] See TAN’s response to the consultation on operational reforms to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project consenting process for more details (which closed last month)


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