7 January 2013- DCLG Consultation on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning: extending the regime to business and commercial projects

NAS do not believe the proposed accelerated process will deliver the commitment to “the principles of ‘sustainable development’” or deliver “environmental outcomes”. In particular, we believe the proposed process will seriously weaken protection for communities and countryside from local environmental impacts from noise – given the probability that increased traffic and other activities will result from development. Proposed extension of the regime gives us no confidence that noise will be adequately considered in assessment of these developments.  Clause 158 of the Planning Act 2008, confers statutory authority for nuisance action for developers of major infrastructure projects – therefore there is no intrinsic right for neighbours for protection from noise or other disturbance or unhealthy emissions from development covered by the nationally significant infrastructure regime.

We believe the proposed developments in manufacturing, warehousing, conference, leisure, sports stadia, office or leisure premises are very unlikely to comprise ‘nationally significant infrastructure’ – and there is no clarity as to what ‘national significance’ is. All of these have implications for and impacts on local communities. They are likely to have impacts on the amenity and quality of life in an area in terms of noise and other local impacts – from, for example, from air conditioning, heating, cooling plant and from increased traffic. We question whether it is in the national interest that noise, for example, from a leisure development, is more important than the amenity of neighbouring homes.

Further, given the continuing lack of clarity as to the guidance in place for assessing noise and associated wider local impacts of development, we believe more major change to the planning process is, at this stage, premature as it is not possible for consultees to consider the context and therefore full implications of these proposals as the findings of Lord Taylor’s review on planning guidance were only published in late December – and have not been implemented. To date the, admittedly out of date PPG24 has been used as a benchmark – there remains no up to date guidance on criteria for noise assessment in planning.

We therefore believe, for these types of development, that communities and local authorities should continue to be involved in a local decision making process that will shape the soundscape, landscape and economic operation of their neighbourhoods.

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