A starring role for the Planning Act? – Lord Carnwath
23 Tuesday Oct 2012
Giving a speech at the Infrastructure Lawyers Association Inaugural Dinner, Lord Carnwath spoke about how planning law has always been in a backdrop to his life – from early awareness of environmental activism to working on George Dorby’s report into the Planning System as a pupil barrister.
More recent influences in his life were major planning accomplishments he was involved in whilst practicing or as a member of the judiciary – including the Channel Tunnel, the St Pancras Eurostar terminal and the M25. He criticised some projects as victims of changes in policy, such as Cross-rail:
“It is galling to think that the project was being actively promoted before Parliamentary Committee when I was still at the Bar. As I recall, the committee got so fed up with changes in the government’s approach to funding that they threw it out, thus setting it back for more than a decade.”
Throughout the speech the theme was the essential role of law in planning:
“Good law makes things easy. It cannot prevent conflict, but it can prevent conflict causing unnecessary disruption. It does so by providing effective mechanisms for balancing the conflicting interests which inevitably arise.”
The Planning Act 2008 was favourably described as tackling “the fundamental problem of ensuring a firm policy base for any public consultation process into infrastructure projects of national significance”.
Lord Carnwath finished by praising the judgment in Walton v The Scottish Ministers  UKSC 44, stating that making the 2008 Act work as intended is in all our interests, and that generous rules of standing are important to provide a mechanism for listening to competing interests in national infrastructure projects. The full transcript is available here.