The Tories will scrap the Infrastructure Planning Commission if they win the general election.
The IPC was formed in October 2009 as part of a move to strip local authorities of the ability to block or delay projects considered to be of high national priority. It aims to separate national decisions from individual planning concerns.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: Under our plans to scrap the IPC, local authorities would be the principal reference for planning applications in their capacity as local planning authority. However, using national policy statements which may be locationally specific the whole process for infrastructure will be significantly speeded up.
In November 2009, Energy Secretary Ed Miliband announced draft national policy statement plans to speed up the planning process in order to build plants, such as energy-from-waste facilities that produce more than 50MW.
An IPC spokeswoman said that at the moment, planning decisions are made through local authorities or the relevant Secretary of State.
The IPC is due to start considering applications for projects from March 1 but The Times (January 28) reported that the IPC was unable to approve planning decisions because the Government has yet to set out its final legal guidelines. The Times stated that insiders say those criteria are unlikely to be approved before the general election.
The IPC has published anticipated programme of projects at the start of January. The programme highlights 17 project proposals the IPC expects to receive after March 1 when it starts to receive development consent applications from firms planning projects.
Two waste combustion plants operated by Covanta and planned for Merthyr Tydfil [Wales] and Bedfordshire feature on the programme of projects list.
Critics of the national policy statements, such as the International Solid Waste Association vice president Jeff Cooper, said that they would have little relevance to the industry. He said the limit for establishment of a national significant facility has been set over 50MW and there are few facilities that reach that limit. He said an energy recovery facility would have to process more than 300,000 tonnes of waste per year to qualify.