23 May 2007 - 11:06
  • News Code: 105391

LONDON -- The UK has launched a white paper to revamp the planning system and ensure that large energy projects of national importance are dealt with quickly, smoothly, and separately from other proposals in the planning program.

Energy companies previously had complained that the planning system—particularly when dealing with major gas projects—was burdensome and that local communities abused the process system by blocking proposals and significantly delaying their timetable.

 

UK Communities Sec. Ruth Kelly insisted that local communities would have a say in major infrastructure projects at every stage of the process and stressed that the new regime would be accessible to them for voicing their concerns. Companies will now be required to have low-carbon emissions under any new community projects planned.

 

The new planning system will replace more than eight different planning regimes and could save over £1 billion within 10 years, the UK government said. Ministers and parliament will draw up a new national policy framework to decide how the country"s key infrastructure needs for the next 10-25 years will be met under one legal framework. This will be subject to public consultation.

 

The government has proposed introducing a new independent infrastructure planning commission that would take decisions on nationally significant energy applications, such as LNG terminals and power plants. The commission would comprise "experts of considerable standing and experience drawn from a range of relevant fields," the government said.

 

Trade and Industry Sec. Alistair Darling said, "Secure, clean energy supplies are vital. Currently major energy projects, including wind farms, can take many years going through the planning system which is confusing and unpredictable for both industry and communities."

 

Appeals must now be filed within 8 weeks rather than 6 months so they can be dealt with quickly, according to the white paper.

 

National Grid said that major reform of the planning system was needed and that it would continue to involve local communities in the planning process for its 14 gas and electricity projects that are expected to come on stream by 2012.

 

E.On welcomed the white paper and urged the government to implement it by 2009 to help facilitate constructing new power stations and renewable schemes. Paul Golby, chief executive of E.On UK said, "The situation is especially pertinent for next generation nuclear power stations and for onshore wind farms, where some of our schemes have been held up in planning for literally years."

 

Environmentalists were dismayed that major infrastructure projects, such as nuclear power stations and airport expansions, would get the green light under the white paper, arguing that these would harm the environment.

 

Interested parties have until Aug. 17 to submit comments on the white paper.

 

PIN/OGJ.COM

News Code 105391

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