Crown Immunity to be scrapped
The removal of Crown privilege in planning matters is expected to be law by Christmas, or even by September. In a letter to NAG, the Reading-based group that monitors the environmental impact of AWE, the Guildford Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) replied for the DPM. The letter states, “ that provisions to remove Crown immunity from planning control have been incorporated in the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
AWE Aldermaston is expected to submit a full planning notice for the Orion Laser to West Berks. Council in the next few months. The date that the new bill is passed is crucial since it will determine whether or not the Secretary of State will be empowered to take the decision. Details of the implications are reproduced below from the ODPM website:
Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill: Crown Immunity
Amendment to the Provisions Provisions to remove Crown immunity from planning controls are [therefore] being introduced as an amendment to the recommitted Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. This will mean that, once the proposed powers are brought into force, all Crown bodies will need to seek planning permission in the normal way. Following enactment, the Crown will be required to apply to the local planning authority for planning permission.
Urgent Crown Development and Urgent works to Crown Land
This amendment will apply to development which is urgently required and the local planning authority are expected to refuse planning permission. It will enable the Crown as the developing body to certify that the proposed development is of such national importance and urgency that this procedure is justified and thus enable the body concerned to apply directly to the Secretary of State for planning permission.
The Crown will be required to advertise the application in one or more local newspapers giving details of the development proposed and stating that a planning application will be being made direct to the Secretary of State.
The application to the Secretary of State will need to be supported by the necessary documentation, including an Environmental Statement under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 where required1 and a statement of the case for seeking permission. [However, projects serving national defence purposes, which are not covered by the Directive, will not need an environmental assessment]. Copies of these documents will be made public in the area of the proposed development and the local planning authority and interested third parties will then have the opportunity to put forward their views.
The application will then be treated as if it had been 'called in' by the Secretary of State. The Inquiries Procedure Rules will be amended to provide a shorter period than the 22 weeks currently allowed between the date the Secretary of States announces the date of the inquiry and the date it actually starts.
Transitional arrangements provide for cases where the Crown has already served a Notice of Proposed Development on the local planning authority under the arrangements in Part IV of the Memorandum to DOE Circular 18/84 before the commencement of the new provisions. These will enable the local planning authority or the Secretary of State to grant planning permission with or without conditions.
If the local planning authority has made no decision by commencement, the application can be dealt with as if it were a normal application under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and the local authority can grant or refuse planning permission. If permission is refused, the Crown will then have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State under section 78 of that Act. If a case is already before the Secretary of State for determination before commencement, he will be allowed to treat it as if it were an appeal against a refusal to grant planning permission.
Current AWE Planning Notice
An updated planning notice is currently listed at WBDC at http://ww2.westberks.gov.uk/_dbpages/planapps/xdecnodec_list.asp?SortText=PARNAME&area=THATCH&desc=