The UK’s prncipal industrial representative, the Confederation of British Industry, is warning that plans to hand back powers to ministers to approve major infrastructure projects could lead to further delays in building vital energy schemes.

The CBI says the UK government’s decision to replace the independent Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) withthea Major Infrastructure Unit is making investors nervous about committing to large-scale building projects.

The CBI is particularly concerned about whether ministers will be able to deliver timely planning decisions under the revised system, and by way of illustration highlighted applications for 37 power plants, inherited from the previous government, that are still awaiting ministerial approval under Section 36 of the 1989 Electricity Act.

The delayed applications predate the formation of IPC and are equivalent to 17.5 GW, around a fifth of the UK’s current electricity generation capacity. They include gas and coal fired power stations, on and offshore wind farms, biomass, wave and tidal projects. Some of the projects have been awaiting a decision for three years.

The CBI wants the government to clear the delayed applications in six months in order to give investors confidence that its revised planning system will be able to deliver timely decisions.

Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Director of Business Environment, said: “The Government must get a grip on planning. We need to build new low-carbon energy sources, including wind, biomass, gas, nuclear and clean coal plants. These are essential for securing our energy supplies and meeting emissions targets. We already have a log-jam of delayed planning applications for major energy projects inherited from the previous Government, and there is still uncertainty about how the new Major Infrastructure Unit will work in practice. In the next six months, the Government must clear the backlog of delayed planning applications. This will send a strong signal to investors that it is serious about fixing the planning system. The new planning regime must be streamlined, with ministers able to make timely decisions on infrastructure projects in the national interest. We need a planning system that encourages, not deters investment.”

Earlier this week, the CBI set out actions the government ought to deliver within six months to unlock the £150 billion of private investment needed to renew the energy system. Among the measures outlined in the report “No time to lose –deciding Britain’s energy future” are included: tackling delays in the planning system, speeding up the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, and providing more detail on electricity market reform, its renewable energy policy, and the implications of the Emissions Performance Standard.