Sir Michael Pitt is to chair the new Infrastructure Planning Commission which will decide on development consent for infrastructure proposals that are of national significance.

Housing and planning minister Margaret Beckett confirmed Pitt’s appointment today following his endorsement from the communities and local government select committee last week.

Pitt will officially take the role on May 1st with the commission expected to begin to exercise some of its functions from 1st October 2009. His appointment will be for five years and can be renewed, subject to satisfactory performance, up to a maximum of 8 years.

He will initial participate in the recruitment of the commission’s chief executive and the other commissioners for the commission. He will also be working to ensure the necessary preparations for the new body are made, including producing guidance for applicants to enable the commission to function effectively from the date it begins operation.

Once the commission is up and running the chair is likely to be overseeing around 45 major cases a year and a larger number of less complex cases.

A consultation on the rules for developers submitting major applications to the commission was also announced today.

The government said it was committed to giving communities and councils more say in the planning system last year and the Planning Act included the first ever statutory duty on developers to consult local communities.

Potential applicants to the infrastructure and planning commission will have to comply with statutory requirements to engage in pre-application consultation with local communities, local authorities, and those who would be directly affected by the proposals.

Developers also get the opportunity to amend their plans before they reach the application stage with the aim of reducing delays later on.