The real reason it takes so long to build infrastructure in Britain
In an article for The Economist, legal director Mustafa Latif-Aramesh notes that judicial reviews around development consent orders are becoming more common—and more obstructive. He notes that:
‘…between 2010 and 2020 ten of the development consent orders signed by ministers were reviewed. None were quashed. Since then, however, four judicial reviews (for an airport in Kent, road junctions near Derby, the tunnel near Stonehenge and a wind farm off the coast of Norfolk) have succeeded.’
In three of those four cases planning inspectors had advised ministers to reject the plans. That, too, is becoming more common. Mr Latif-Aramesh counts two occasions between 2010 and 2019 when the inspectors recommended refusal, and ten since. Ministers can and do approve projects anyway, but the examiners’ reluctance emboldens opponents.
Many of these hitches have a common cause. The entire system for assessing large infrastructure projects rests on a pile of documents known as ‘national policy statements’, which set out the government’s approach in specific areas. Planning inspectors use these documents to assess projects relating to airports, roads and railways and electricity networks. The national policy statements are supposed to be refreshed about once every five years, but this has not been happening. As they grow yellow, planning grows fraught.
The full article is available to subscribers of The Economist, here.