Freshwater’s conference arm, Waterfront Conference Company, welcomed more than 170 senior delegates from the major infrastructure sector together for its Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) Masterclass 2015.
The two-day event shared information about the process of how to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) using the Planning Act 2008 and offered insight into how to best approach the NSIP application process. With the Planning Act 2008 having been in effect for around six years, the masterclass looked at how well the process is currently working and explored all the practical issues promoters need to address in delivering their own projects.
Further discussions at the conference looked at each part of pre-application in more detail including public consultation, the Environmental Impact Assessment process and how to create a concise application – an important consideration given the size and complexity of an NSIP application.
During the event, the delegates, made up of promoters, local authorities and consultants, explained how the NSIP system has added increased certainty for promoters because of its fixed timescales when compared to the previous approach. Promoters now know when a final decision is going to be made by the Secretary of State.
Commenting on the NSIP process, Rachel Furlong, of Scottish Power, said: “It has been helpful with the delivery of consent for large scale projects. The certainty of fixed timescales has been a big help.”
Mohammed Swapan, from The Highways Agency, said: “It needs a few more years and a few more projects to see how it settles in. The certainty of fixed timeframes is very good though, especially in comparison to public hearings.”
Prospective applicants also heard from David Cowan, managing director of planning and environment at RPS, who stressed that the application process isn’t just a rubber stamping exercise, highlighting that a number of projects have been withdrawn from making a formal application altogether. To submit a DCO application an extensive set of environmental, consultation, and regulatory requirements must be met for it accepted and moved through to the examination phase. To date, 34 DCOs have been granted and one has been rejected.
The aim of the conference was to examine each stage of the NSIP application process and share practical advice on navigating the regime.
Bernard Lee, from Western Power Distribution, described the event as “an invaluable platform to gain cutting-edge insights.” He added: “It’s been a great way of understanding the issues at play, sharing best practice and top tips and tricks.”
Nia Griffiths, from Network Rail, said the event was “very well organised,” and that it offered “good, informative content with some very good presentations - I picked up some key points that I think will be useful on future schemes.”
With the 2015 General Election approaching, further changes for promoters may be ahead. The Labour Party has stated that it will introduce a National Infrastructure Commission if elected in May, confirming that a commission would be included in the Queen’s Speech following the election.
In 2014, business and commercial projects had the option, for the first time, to follow the NSIP application process, and there has since been calls for the regime to be expanded further so that other projects, such as shale gas and large housing projects, be included too. Any changes or developments to the DCO and NSIP application process will be covered at the 2016 masterclass.
If you missed the conference, you can access information from the event and conference speakers’ PowerPoint slides. Find out more about Waterfront Conference Company’s events here.
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