Another insightful NSIP forum took place last week 6-7 March, bringing together some of the leading planning, legal, Government and EIA experts across the energy, transport, and utilities sectors. With 69 projects currently registered in the pre-application phase, and a critical need to stop the length of application process ballooning, a focus remains on how disciplines can work together to speed up the DCO regime. As James Heath (CEO of the National infrastructure commission) opened with on day 1 “the planning system is a binding constraint on infrastructure rollout at the pace that is required”, and for all those working in UK infrastructure, there is a need to build and develop against the clock.

 

Our 5 key takeaways included:

 

1. Reforming the NSIP regime is key to unlocking growth in the UK economy, and early engagement is a focus area for feasibly speeding up planning. Through thorough early engagement we can reduce the time needed at the pre-application stage ironing out political, community, and statutory feedback in advance of examination.

 

2. Communicating the new National Policy Statements, in particular the new designation of energy as a “critical national priority”, is central to the needs case and backing for the plethora of energy projects in the system but is no mean feat. As the National Infrastructure Commission has recommended, there needs to be continuity throughout sectors to ensure tangible benefits for local communities and individuals hosting nationally significant infrastructure, such as electricity transmission lines.

 

3. Knowledge gaps create opposition. As was reported in our research into the importance climate change will play in the next general election voters are focused on what they are feeling and seeing now – less money in their pockets, higher bills and costs, a growing NHS waiting list, strikes and the concerns around immigration. Creating accessible information unlocks understanding, and stops knowledge being a barrier to engagement or opposition groups filling a communications void.

 

4. More work can be down to bridge ‘the gap’ between the consenting and construction phases. Bringing delivery teams onto projects to provide construction advice earlier in the pre-application phase would improve their deliverability, reduce delays building them and ensure the DCO consented is flexible enough to allow for future innovation.

 

5. Effective engagement with statutory consultees is pivotal for the success of infrastructure consenting reform in the UK. Early involvement helps identify issues and opportunities, with consultees actively recruiting to handle the increasing number of DCO projects coming forward. Providing detailed work programmes at an early stage aids consultees in resource planning to unlock efficiency.

 

At Copper, we were pleased to end the week with good news across energy and transport as the Byers Gill Solar DCO application was accepted, and the A66 Trans-Pennine DCO was granted consent.
For more information on Copper’s NSIP experience please contact Sam Cranston sam.cranston@copperconsultancy.com 07791 774608.