With infrastructure set to be at the heart of attempts to rebuild and stimulate an economy recovering from the impact of Covid-19, the Government outlined in the NIS a need for the construction of infrastructure projects to be made both quicker and easier.
Research carried by Copper in 2020 found that the DCO process has faced greater delays and uncertainty than ever before. Having analysed every DCO decision, we found that projects are more likely to be delayed now than since the inception of the process, and more recently, the Secretary of State has shown an increased willingness to go against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate.
COVID-19 is certainly a factor behind some of these delays and every case has unique challenges. But does the overall trend points to an infrastructure planning system that has become more politicised in recent years?
In 2021 the Government will be keen to provide as much confidence as possible to infrastructure projects, and to minimise delays and uncertainty.
This was recognised in the NIS, which set out that “the NSIP regime is well-respected but is currently not being implemented as effectively as possible, leading to slower delivery times and more uncertainty”.
To counter this, the government is establishing a ‘National Infrastructure Planning Reform Programme’. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the delivery of national infrastructure in 2021 and beyond.