Planning matters

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The National Infrastructure Assessment: Today’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’
On 10 July 2018, the National Infrastructure Commission[1] (‘NIC’) published its ‘National Infrastructure Assessment’ (‘NIA’). The document sets out an ambitious and long-term plan for the delivery of infrastructure in the UK from 2020 to 2050 with a series of recommendations that are intended to equip the country with the infrastructure that it most needs. Intended to be the first of a series of similar assessments published every five years, the report builds on work carried out and described in an earlier and interim report published in October 2017 entitled “Congestion, Capacity, Carbon: Priorities for National Infrastructure”. The NIC seeks to move the agenda forward and sets out several ‘targets’ that are based on responses received to the interim report, as well as findings from engagement with a range of organisations in recent months and also through the NIC’s own analysis and modelling. The foreword of the NIA, by Sir John Armitt, Chair of the NIC, notes that: - ’Providing the right infrastructure for the future does not just entail delivering the running water, roads and rail that traditionally spring to mind, although these are important. The UK needs fast, reliable internet connections. It needs low cost energy and transport that doesn’t harm the planet. It needs to make cities liveable for the growing urban population. It needs to reduce the plastic waste that can end up in our oceans. It needs water supply and flood defences that can respond to the risk of extreme floods and drought. All this needs to be done in a way that is well designed, and affordable for the government and the public.’ So whilst those looking forward to an Arthur C. Clarke version of the UK’s future may therefore be disappointed, the report acknowledges that presenting a more realistic ‘Tomorrow’s World’ is necessary to provide guidance to planners and policy makers. It is clear that the NIA seeks to leave the delivery of the more ‘traditional’ infrastructure (rail, road, utilities, airports) to the now established consenting processes and policy vehicles that have been set up to assist in bringing them forward by operators, providers and developers. The NIA, meanwhile, is interesting for perhaps two reasons. First in providing a focus on the types of infrastructure in which the UK should be investing but perhaps would not otherwise come forward without a clear step-change in government thinking; and second in establishing a new way to think about infrastructure, with a focus on how it affects the population’s quality of life and the success of the economy. We will examine the details of the document over the coming weeks and months but, for now, we provide a short summary of the key targets identified by the NIA. In addition to this, the NIA sets out recommendations to improve how decisions are made on infrastructure proposals, including through the establishment of a clear framework for measuring infrastructure performance, and also to bring about better-quality design of nationally significant infrastructure projects.  On the latter, the board proposes the establishment of a National Infrastructure Design Group and the use of design panels to review development proposals. Finally, the report reviews how the proposals will be funded and financed making the comment that: - “The recommendations set out in this Assessment are not simply a wish list. The recommendations are affordable within the resources set out by the government and provide a full costed plan for infrastructure spending without significant additional costs to billpayers.” Some headlines from the NIC’s recommendations as to how resources should be allocated throughout the period to 2050 include:- Prioritising broadband and electric vehicle charging in the short term and prioritise urban transport over intercity transport in the 2030s; Balancing rail expenditure in the 2020s with other priorities and establish a budget of £24 billion from 2023/24 to 2039/40 for Northern Powerhouse Rail; Providing a gradual increase in the budget for flood protection but also allow some headroom in the budget in the latter years towards 2050 to allow for new technologies that may emerge; Giving local authorities more powers to capture a fair proportion of the increases in the value of land for planning and infrastructure provision. In conclusion, and whilst a little light on exciting new methods of space travel or other headline-grabbing futurology, the NIA does set out a realistic and considered approach to the country’s infrastructure priorities. We look forward to the Government’s response on this vision of our future later this year. [1] Chaired by Sir John Armitt CBE, the NIC was established in 2015 as an executive agency of the Treasury.  Its aim is to provide impartial, expert advice and make independent recommendations to the government on economic infrastructure. This advice is shaped from the commissioning of studies and engagement with government, industry, interest groups and other stakeholders from which views are gathered on future infrastructure needs and solutions.  

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Safely landed? Is the current aerodrome safeguarding process fit for purpose?
Safety is of course fundamental to the aviation industry. Aerodromes, which are hubs for a wide range of aviation activity, must be able to operate within a safe environment. But how well is this requirement to safeguard operations and protect people living and working near aerodromes being applied, when proposals come forward for new development? The civil aviation and planning regimes set out a system to meet this safety objective; it is a complex system that often gives rise to uncertainty as to its application. Under the civil aviation regime, all licenced aerodromes must ensure that the aerodrome and its airspace are safe for use by aircraft. Yet only a select few are officially safeguarded under the planning regime and they benefit from Statutory Direction. But it is unclear how this arbitrary group of officially safeguarded aerodromes has been identified. The remaining licenced aerodromes can only seek voluntary protection and this is at the discretion of the local planning authority. Lichfields has reviewed the local plans of all of the local planning authorities (LPAs) in England with a civil licenced aerodrome to see how well (or indeed if) each aerodrome is appropriately safeguarded. The research has identified a flawed system with evident gaps in policy, meaning not all aerodromes are appropriately protected. How well does the safeguarding Circular work in practice in England? 92 local plans, relating to 82 corresponding aerodromes, have been reviewed. Our research has identified that only 50% of licenced aerodromes are protected in some way under the planning regime, with either an official or voluntary safeguarding status. Of the select few that are officially safeguarded under the planning regime, not all have a safeguarding policy in place within the local plan, despite the requirement to do so. In fact, a worryingly 32% of officially safeguarded aerodromes do not have a safeguarding policy in place. More positively, 13 ‘not officially safeguarded’ aerodromes have secured voluntary safeguarding with their LPAs and have policies in place in their local plans, indicating that these authorities and the aerodromes concerned understand the importance and value of safeguarding. Is the safeguarding Circular being applied to development plans in England? The national safeguarding circulars are outdated and no longer meet their intended use. Since adoption, the policy environment has changed significantly, particularly with the introduction of localism (2011), the National Planning Policy Framework (2012), a new aviation policy framework (2013), an Industrial Strategy (2017), and Brexit. The aviation industry continues to experience growth and play an important part in the UK economy. These factors all give greater weight to the need to protect an aerodrome’s ability to carry out safe and efficient operations. A review and update of national advice and how safeguarding is implemented at a local level is required, with new guidance being issued. Government, with LPA and aerodrome support, could take safeguarding policy further with a review and update to Circulars 1/2003 and 1/2010. Many of the LPAs reviewed are yet to adopt post-NPPF local plans, meaning that the current safeguarding policy – if there is one in the first place - could be more than 10 years’ old and will be likely not to reflect the current position of the aerodrome and its operational status. But these deficiencies create an opportunity for aerodrome operators to seek to incorporate safeguarding policy in reviewed and emerging local plans – it’s important for the industry to act on this now. From our work advising aerodromes, local authorities and developers on schemes at or close to aerodromes, we are familiar with the complexities of the land use planning safeguarding process, and the policies that might be put in place to meet this safety objective – both in terms of how they should be applied and the issues that arise in their application. If you would like to learn more about our research on aerodrome safeguarding please get in touch.

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