The Infrastructure Bill would provide a £3.9 billion boost to the economy over the next 10 years by:
- improving the funding and management of our major roads
- streamlining the planning process for major projects
- protecting our infrastructure from invasive plants and animals
- supporting house building
- making it easier and cheaper to register land and property
- helping communities become stakeholders in renewable electricity projects
- maximising the recovery of oil and gas from the UK continental shelf
- simplifying underground access procedures for the shale and geothermal energy industries
The bill and its supporting documents are on the Parliament website.
The main elements of the bill are:
The bill would turn the Highways Agency into a government-owned company. It would also provide for stable, long term funding for national strategic road infrastructure projects, to create and repair the motorways and major A routes that support the economy. It would create units within Passenger Focus and the Office of Rail Regulation to represent the interests of road users and to monitor the company’s performance. The response to consultation on these measures was published in April 2014. We conducted an impact assessment on these measures and considered the case for the creation of an arms-length body. Further information about the governance arrangements for the government-owned company was published in June 2014.
Cycling and walking
The bill would place a commitment on the government to produce a ‘Cycling and walking investment strategy’. The strategy would specify the objectives to be achieved and the financial resources to be made available.
British Transport Police
The bill would allow the British Transport Police to obtain driver information and so enforce against individuals committing road traffic offences on the railways.
Invasive non-native species
The bill would provide more power to control the invasive, non-native species that pose serious threats to biodiversity, the water environment and infrastructure. This was one of the measures looked at by the Law Commission consultation paper on wildlife law in 2012, and their subsequent report of February 2014.
Nationally significant infrastructure projects
The bill would simplify and speed up measures introduced in the Planning Act 2008 for handling minor changes to existing planning permissions for major projects. It would also simplify the processes for more significant changes.
The bill would allow the examining authority, a group of inspectors who consider major applications, to be appointed immediately after an application has been accepted. It would also allow the panel to comprise 2 inspectors, speeding up the process and saving money.
A briefing note on these measures has now been published. More details on changes being proposed to secondary legislation can be found in the nationally significant infrastructure section of the government’s recent technical consultation on planning. The government has now published its response to this consultation.
Deemed discharge for certain planning conditions
The bill would allow certain types of planning conditions to be regarded as discharged if a local planning authority has not notified the applicant of their decision within a prescribed time period. This will reduce unnecessary delay and costs. The government response to the consultation on the procedural detail of this proposal has been published.
Mayoral Development Orders
The bill would enable the Mayor of London to provide leadership and work with London boroughs to tackle cross-boundary planning obstacles, unlocking more sites for development, including residential development.
Greater London Authority
The bill would allow the Greater London Authority (GLA) to fund transport elements of projects to build new homes or create new jobs in London.
Public sector land assets
The bill would permit land to be transferred directly from arms-length bodies to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). This would reduce bureaucracy, manage land more effectively, and get more homes built.
The bill would make sure that future purchasers of land owned by HCA and GLA will be able to develop and use land without being affected by easements and other rights and restrictions suspended by the agency. Sometimes land owned by HCA and GLA has easements or rights and restrictions from its previous use. At the moment HCA and the GLA can suspend these, but not pass that suspension on. The bill would make sure that purchasers of this land would also benefit from the suspension.
The bill would also allow Land Registry to take on statutory responsibility for the Local Land Charges register and an extension of powers would also allow Land Registry to play a wider role in the property market. The consultation, including impact assessment, on these measures took place between January and March 2014 and the response and updated impact assessment were published in June 2014 and October 2014 respectively.
Zero carbon homes
The bill would introduce measures to implement the government’s drive towards zero carbon homes as described in its recent response to the consultation that took place in 2013. A consultation paper with proposals for an exemption from zero carbon provisions for small sites was published on 18 November 2014.
The bill would create a reserve power to give communities the chance to buy a stake in new commercial renewable electricity schemes in their area. This community electricity right would allow communities to own a greater share of the financial benefits. We would only consider using this power if the voluntary approach to community shared ownership was unsuccessful.
Renewable heat incentive (RHI)
The bill would allow for changes to the RHI providing more flexibility in financing arrangements for renewable heating systems. This would, for example, allow households unable to afford a renewable heating system to have the cost met by a third party, who would then receive the RHI payments. The bill would also allow the RHI scheme to be administered by parties other than the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change or Ofgem. It would make some changes to the Parliamentary procedures which apply to secondary legislation relating to the scheme. A policy brief and impact assessment for these measures is available.
‘Second comer’ regime
The bill would help level the playing field in the market for connections to the electricity grid between Independent Connection Providers (ICPs) and Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). It would ensure that customers can qualify for second comer payments regardless of whether they have used a DNO or an ICP for making a connection to the electricity grid. Second comer payments reimburse customers who have paid for connection infrastructure by requiring later customers who use that infrastructure to contribute to its costs. Allowing second comer payments for grid connections made by ICPs will strengthen competition in the connections market, provide more choice for customers and drive up standards. A Call for Comment letter and the Impact Assessment were published in the summer of 2014.
The bill would introduce measures to implement the Wood review’s recommendations aimed at maximising recovery of oil and natural gas from the UK continental shelf. As part of the implementation, the government has announced that it will contribute short term funding of £15 million over five years to help kickstart the establishment of a new regulatory body for the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry. An impact assessment on Phase 1 of these measures was published on 3rd November.
The bill would also make provision for a new function to allow HMRC to participate in the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI). EITI is a global standard ensuring openness and accountability in the management of revenue from natural resources including coal, oil, natural gas, quarrying and mining.
Underground access to shale gas and geothermal energy
The bill would simplify procedures by which the onshore oil and gas and deep geothermal industries obtain underground drilling access 300 metres or more below the surface. Existing procedures for underground drilling access are costly and disproportionate for new methods of lateral drilling. There are no proposed changes to surface access or the regulatory system which deals with the potential risks associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing. A company looking to develop shale or geothermal would still need to obtain all the necessary permissions, like planning and environmental permits, and industry has committed to engage with communities at each stage.
The government is putting in place a range of measures specific to the shale industry, to provide the public with confidence that it is being taken forward in a balanced way. These include measures on environmental impact assessments, groundwater monitoring, community benefits and protected areas. This confirms proposals that are already government policy, carried out voluntarily by industry or part of the regulators’ working practice. Finally, the Secretary of State would be required to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the likely impact on carbon budgets and the net carbon account of petroleum produced onshore in England and Wales.
The government has carried out a consultation on these measures and has published its response along with the related impact assessments.
Public Works Loan Board
The bill would enable the government to abolish the Public Works Loan Board and transfer its functions to another body with local authorities’ access to existing and new borrowing maintained.
As of 12 February 2015, the Infrastructure Act has now become law.