February 2002 Number 173APPRAISING MAJORINFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTSThe Government wishes to speed the planning of majorinfrastructure projects (MIPs) to minimise what it sees Possible types of major infrastructure projectsas unnecessary delays. As part of a wider package, it is DTLR has not yet defined the nature of the projects that would come under the definition of MIPs, but has indicatedconsulting1 on new procedures that would enable the types of projects that could be included:Parliament to make a ‘Decision in Principle’ on whether • Airports – including new runways, runway extensionsa MIP should go forward to detailed scrutiny on local and airport terminalsissues at a planning inquiry. The Government intends • Power stations – including thermal, nuclear andthat Parliament is able to “fully consider” a scheme, renewable energy sources; and overhead electricity lines • Nuclear facilities – including facilities for fuelensuring that there is “the opportunity for extensive fabrication, spent fuel reprocessing, waste storage orpublic involvement”. disposal • Ports and piersThe House of Commons Procedure Committee and the • Dams and reservoirsTransport, Local Government and the Regions Select • Major roads • Railway linesCommittee are examining the proposals. This briefing • Oil and gas facilities – including extraction facilities,focuses on what is meant by MIPs, and how they can pipelines, terminals, storage facilities and refineriesbe appraised2. • Chemical works • Quarries and minesPlanning major infrastructure projects • Crown developments such as large military projectsMIPs are large-scale projects of national importance suchas new trunk roads, airports, ports, power stations,nuclear facilities and chemical works (see box). There Parliamentary scrutiny of MIPshas been concern that the land use planning for MIPs Under the new proposals, Parliament would be asked totakes too long. While the vast majority of planning endorse or reject the principle of, need for, and locationinquiries last less than 30 weeks, occasionally, some of an individual project of major importance. This, thecases arise that take considerably longer - a now classic Government sees “would add weight and accountabilityexample is the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry which sat to the overall decision-making process”. Parliament’sfor a record 524 days. Such delays can occur if the endorsement would not confer planning permission, onlyinquiry spends a long time considering matters of that Parliament thought it fitting for the project tonational interest, as opposed to local issues. Therefore, proceed to detailed scrutiny at a local planning inquiry.the Government is proposing a range of measures to The Government’s proposed timetable for thespeed up the process. These include: the Government Parliamentary procedures is set out in the box at the topmaking national3 and regional policy statements (e.g. on of the next page. An analysis of further details of theairport capacity); followed by Parliamentary Decisions in proposed procedures will be undertaken by the House ofPrinciple on specific proposals (e.g. a second runway at Commons Procedure Committee, and is beyond theGatwick airport); before detailed scrutiny on more local scope of this short briefing, which concentrates on theissues at a planning inquiry. features of technical appraisal of MIPs.
postnote February 2002 Number 173 Appraising major infrastructure projects Page 2 The Government’s proposed timetable for Good practice in project appraisal Parliamentary scrutiny of MIPs Scoping - The first stage of an appraisal is to identify the key The Government’s primary purpose for these proposals is to issues arising from the project in terms of its effects on: speed up the planning of MIPs. Thus, the Department of • Environmental factors including (among others) climate Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) has change, air and water pollution, soil quality, landscape proposed the following timetable: and wildlife conservation, noise and nuisance, cultural • day 0 - the Secretary of State designates a MIP, and heritage and archaeology copies the details to Parliament. The public can begin • Economic factors such as the number of jobs created representations to Parliament directly and to the locally, the impact on local, national and regional Secretary of State (who will copy these to Parliament). economies, earnings and income • day 21 – deadline for developer to submit, to the • Social factors including effects on populations, health, Secretary of State, a statement of need and benefits. communities, deprived and vulnerable groups, and This too is submitted to Parliament access to leisure and cultural amenities. • day 42 – deadline for representations to the Secretary of State, but Parliamentary scrutiny can continue. Assessment and mitigation - This is the ‘heart’ of the • day 56 – deadline for the Secretary of State to deliver to appraisal, and comprises a series of steps to identify: Parliament a summary of representations received. • the features of the proposed development and the • day 60 (as sitting days4) – the earliest time for laying alternatives considered the draft Order for the MIP. Parliament can continue its • the nature and magnitude of the effects of the project scrutiny until the debate takes place on the draft Order. • the significance of those effects • measures to avoid, substitute for or mitigate unacceptable effectsTechnical input to project appraisal • the significance of any residual effects • proposals for monitoring and review.PrinciplesThe precise nature of the project appraisal necessary forMIPs will be determined by the particular procedures Assessing environmental impactsParliament itself adopts. Clearly, the provision of all Procedures for assessing the environmental impacts ofrelevant technical information is a fundamental particular projects are well established and legallyrequirement. Similarly, it is important to have access to codified in the EU Environmental Assessment Directive7.sources of independent advice and analysis5 and to apply They are transposed into UK law through a range ofrobust frameworks for appraisal that can take into statutory instruments. The Government has producedaccount adequately the economic, social and guidance on good practice in environmental impactenvironmental factors involved in the project. Also, open assessment and there is a professional registrationand transparent processes of decision making should scheme for practitioners. Nevertheless, environmentalstrive to be independent of vested interests and to assessment still suffers from a number of limitations, notemploy inclusive processes that provide ready access to, least that alternative options, and cumulative, indirectand effective engagement by the public. and non-local effects are rarely assessed.Appraisal in practice Recognising such limitations, the DTI’s ForesightAny project appraisal requires three basic aspects to be Programme (through the Environmental Appraisalexamined. First, the project should comply with Taskforce of the Energy and Natural Environment Panel)national, regional and local land use planning guidance recommended8 that Government should work with theand policy. Second, the proposed principle and design professional community to develop and spread bestfor the project should be appropriate for meeting its practice in appraisal. Similarly, quality standards andstated objectives. This should take into account potential more comprehensive data sources are required, alongsidealternative means to meet the objectives, and also other better relationships between academic researchers andlocations and engineering designs. For example, the A34 professional practitioners. The Task Force alsoNewbury bypass was proposed to relieve congestion and recommended that guidance be developed for publicpollution in the town centre and allow through traffic to officials to use cost-effective environmental appraisal.flow more freely. Matters for appraisal included whethera new road was the best way to meet the objectives, and Economic impactany scope for public transport and traffic management To date, there has been less formal codification ofschemes. Once a road solution was chosen, further economic appraisal, although HM Treasury has publishedquestions arose over how effects from road alignments its ‘Green Book’ on the use of economic appraisal9 ofand engineering designs could be minimised. public investment decisions. This guidance stresses that appraisal is essential for good decision-making and thatLastly, the question arises as to whether the balance of good appraisal entails: clarity about objectives;all costs, risks and benefits of any proposed MIP is identification of alternative ways of meeting them;acceptable in the national context – i.e. set against a estimation of the costs and benefits of each option; and adeveloper’s statement of need and benefits (see box full account of the associated risks and uncertainties.above). This would require the assessment of the However, it recognises that no technical analysis canimpacts of the proposed scheme on sustainable ever give “the right answer” – it can only ever be andevelopment6, i.e. on economic, environmental and essential input into good decision-making.social factors (see box opposite).
postnote February 2002 Number 173 Appraising major infrastructure projects Page 3Assessing social impacts consultation and deliberation, to the transfer of some (orThere is very little formal guidance on the consideration all) decision-making responsibility to the public.of social impacts. However, the International Associationfor Impact Assessment has published a set of guidelines Once the objectives have been agreed, the method ofproduced by US authorities10. This sets out a wide range public involvement can be defined, and this cruciallyof social factors that should be included but stresses that affects its outcome. Much work here has shown that thesocial impact assessment should consider the interests of chances of winning acceptance for a project areall those potentially affected by a project. A key concern increased with earlier inclusion in project design ofwithin social impact assessment is to determine the potentially of affected people.distribution of the costs, risks and benefits arising from aproject, and to identify mitigation measures to enable a Issuesmore equitable distribution. The Environmental Designating projects as MIPsAppraisal Task Force emphasised the need to develop The Government’s consultation paper states that thetools and guidance for social impact assessment. Secretary of State would be “sparing” in designating MIPs for Parliamentary scrutiny. Indeed, in evidence toPulling the appraisals together the Commons Environmental Audit Committee14, theGood decision-making requires that environmental, Secretary of State suggested that Parliament might beeconomic and social factors are brought together and asked to make Decisions in Principle on MIPs aroundthat the results of appraisals are taken fully onboard. In two or three times each year. The DTLR suggests thatrecent years the idea of developing a framework for the Secretary of State would be likely to examine each‘integrated’ appraisal (sometimes known as case separately and “focus on schemes he judged to be‘sustainability’ appraisal) has attracted growing attention. of national significance.”Since the mid-1990s, this has been increasingly appliedto development plans, although issues remain. DTLR has outlined the types of projects that might be considered as MIPs (see box on page 1). At this stage,First, any appraisal needs to be undertaken at a time however, the technical basis for the criteria by which awhen it can influence decision-making. Second, project could be designated as a MIP remains unclear.appraisal is only one input to inherently political decision- Similarly, it is not clear of the project types outlined bymaking and cannot substitute for it. Finally, the DTLR, which would truly be of national (rather thandevelopment of integrated appraisal tools is still in its regional or local) importance, and so how many of theseinfancy, although one such tool (Quality of Life Capital11) types of development would be designated as MIPs. Ashas recently been developed, and is now being piloted. such, some suggest that MIPs are likely to come forward less frequently than envisaged by the Secretary of State.Appraisal will have to use a range of tools such asenvironmental and social impact assessment, risk Scope of the appraisalassessment and cost-benefit analysis, with efforts made As well as deciding on the principle of and need for ato integrate these tools during the appraisals and in the MIP, the Government’s proposals also seek Parliament’speriod of decision-making. The development of endorsement of its planned location. In response, theintegrated appraisal will proceed incrementally and Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) haspragmatically, with tools designed to be ‘fit for purpose’. expressed concern, arguing that this would deny localParliamentary scrutiny of MIPs would require that people an opportunity to question the appropriateness ofspecific appraisal techniques were developed to meet its the location. CPRE argues that this is a vital principle ofunique needs, but drawing on experience from elsewhere. a local public inquiry and that Parliament ought not to make decisions on location. However, it is difficult to seePublic involvement how a Decision in Principle on a project intended for aConsidering the views of people and organisations likely specific location (such as a second runway at Gatwickto be affected by a development has long been widely airport) could avoid considering local issues.recognised as essential in any project appraisal. Suchinvolvement aims to ensure both fairness in decision- Perhaps more important is to acknowledge that location-making and also to reveal sources of information and specific appraisals are likely to be complex, and uniqueperspectives that technical analysts may overlook or to each project. As such, the exact nature of advice andmisinterpret. Indeed, for environmental decision-making, analysis (and hence the timescales necessary) to supportpublic participation is a requirement of the 1998 Aarhus decision-making on MIPs by both Houses of ParliamentConvention12. This has yet to be transposed into law, but may vary from project to project.an EU draft directive is currently being prepared. Ensuring robust appraisalIn 2001, POST published a report on public dialogue in It is the Government’s stated intention that the proposedscience and technology13. This showed that a procedures for considering MIPs should allow bothfundamental requirement of effective public involvement Houses of Parliament to “fully consider” a scheme. In itsis to define its objectives clearly. These can range from initial response to the Government’s proposals, the Royalrelatively straightforward receipt of public views and Town Planning Institute called for an independent bodycomments, through more involved processes of to distil the issues for Parliament. It argued that without
postnote February 2002 Number 173 Appraising major infrastructure projects Page 4objective information, Parliament “would not be able to Resources for appraisalcome to the right decision”. If the two Houses take on Appraisal resources will depend on: the frequency ofthe role proposed by DTLR, they would need to consider Parliament’s scrutiny of MIPs; the precise Parliamentaryhow they could assure themselves that they would procedures adopted; the timescales adopted for decisionreceive timely, comprehensive and high quality making and the capacity and capabilities of Parliament toinformation. Two options arise: to provide the resource undertake robust appraisals and enable effective publicinternally, or to have sufficient internal capacity to engagement. These factors will have a direct effect oncommission, manage, interpret and communicate the resources required for Parliament to give ‘properinformation from external experts. consideration’ to the project.More generally, the Foresight Environmental Appraisal ReviewTask Force recommended a range of actions necessary to Over time, a project’s design or external circumstancesimprove the rigour of project appraisals, including: may change. Should this occur after a project has gained• quality standards Parliamentary endorsement, the evidence base on which• training and guidance for public officials on simple the two Houses of Parliament had appraised the proposal approaches to integrated project appraisal might lose some relevance, with implications for the• tools and processes for social impact assessment previously made decision. The questions arise whether• means of integrating social, economic and and how such Parliamentary decisions could respond to environmental appraisals. such circumstances.Public involvement EndnotesCurrent planning inquiry procedures have some measure 1 Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, 2001.of public input. Many argue however, that they are New Parliamentary Procedures for processing major infrastructureinadequate, particularly in three respects: they require projects. 17 December 2001. Available on DTLR’s web site at:specialised knowledge of inquiry procedures; many www.planning.dtlr.gov.uk/consult/majinfra/pdf/infostruc.pdf 2 POST is also examining overseas experience of similar systems.individuals or small groups find it difficult to access the 3 Some groups have argued parliamentary scrutiny at this stage.system, and few have sufficient resources to be effective. 4 This is in relation to Parliamentary adjournments, with the ‘clockThe Government’s proposals for MIPs would create a new stopping’ for adjournments of 4 days or more.level of public involvement in the planning system. Some 5 Local authorities employ their own professionals and usegroups, such as CPRE, Friends of the Earth (FoE), the consultants; Planning Inspectors can use technical assessors.Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the 6 This is an overarching principle of Government policy-making.Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) have 7 EU Environmental Assessment Directive (85/337).expressed concern that this level may create a significant 8 DTI (2001). Towards more sustainable decisions. Report of thechallenge to effective public involvement. Many people Environmental Appraisal Task Force of the Energy and Naturaldo not regularly take part in government consultations or Environmental Panel (see www.foresight.gov.uk)Parliamentary processes, particularly if these are 9 HM Treasury (1997) “The Green Book” Appraisal and Evaluation in Central Government. Treasury Guidelines. London: Theexercised through ‘traditional’ means like written Stationery Office. www.treasury.gov.uk/mediastore/otherfiles/75.pdfconsultations. As such, TCPA, FoE, RSPB and CPRE are 10 e.g. see Guidelines and principles for social impact assessment.concerned that Parliamentary scrutiny of MIPs will create Available on the International Association for Impact Assessmentfurther barriers to public involvement. Indeed, TCPA has website at: http://www.iaia.org/Publications/SIA%20Guide.PDFsuggested that a Parliamentary committee scrutinising a 11 see www.qualityoflifecapital.org.ukproject should visit the locality, actively seek out local 12 UNECE (1998). Convention on access to information, publicopinion and take formal evidence there. participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Done at Aarhus, Denmark, 25 June 1998It has been widely acknowledged (e.g. by the Public 13 POST report 153, “Open Channels – public dialogue in scienceAdministration Select Committee15, the Government, and and technology”, March 2001 (www.parliament.uk/post/pn153.pdf)the Leader of the House of Commons16) that processes 14 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee 2001. Evidence for 22/11/01, Q166, HC 326-ii. 18 December 2001.are needed to enable more people to connect with 15 Commons Public Administration Committee, 2001. 6th reportParliament in general. Also, as discussed above, public (2000-01) Public Participation: Issues and innovations. HC 373-I.participation in decision-making can help to improve the Government response: 1st report (2001-02), HC 334, Nov 2001.technical quality of the process. Nevertheless, public 16 Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons.participation is not a simple task. As discussed above, Memorandum submitted by the Leader of the House of Commons.objectives must be clear, and the method adopted for Session 2001-02 HC440 December 2001.engaging the public should be specifically designed to 17 e.g. an over-reliance on internet-based dialogue on MIPs mightmeet the objectives17. Therefore, given the forthcoming disproportionately exclude those without ready internet access.requirements of the Aarhus Convention for publicparticipation, questions arise over how scrutiny of MIPs POST is an office of both Houses of Parliament, charged with providing independent and balanced analysis of public policy issues that have a basis incan, as the Convention states: science and technology.• provide “reasonable timeframes” for participation• adopt “appropriate” methods of participation Parliamentary Copyright 2002 The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 7 Millbank,• take “due account” of participation in decision- London SW1P 3JA Tel 020 7219 2840 making. www.parliament.uk/post/home.htm