This conference looked at the future for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) in the UK.
It followed the publication of the UK Government’s action plan for reforming the planning process for NSIPs, with the aim of:
- achieving faster consent for projects, including streamlining the overall application process
- reducing environmental impact, including the proposed introduction of Environmental Outcomes Reports
- recognising the role of local authorities, strengthening community engagement with NSIPs, and improving system-wide capacity and capability
With the Government consulting on proposed reforms, delegates assessed the implications for stakeholders, as well as for current and future projects, including the intention to pilot a new fast-track consenting route for NSIPs in September, and whether it will allow for more focused applications.
There was a focus on whether reforms can address delays to the consenting of projects, and whether the proposed new regime will be sufficient to strengthen the role of the planning system in meeting national environmental targets and navigating forthcoming challenges on a global level, such as climate change and technological shifts.
We expected discussion on ways policy could be further developed to improve the effectiveness and resilience of the planning system to meet the demand for critical infrastructure.
Delegates also looked at the potential for revisions to National Policy Statements (NPSs) to help reduce court challenges and delays to NSIPs, with the Government having published a revised NPS for water infrastructure, and concluded its consultation on changes to the NPS for energy.
Further sessions discussed how government can effectively work with sectors that face complex challenges, such as offshore wind, to speed up applications outside of the fast-track system.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with Anna Payne, Joint Head, National Infrastructure Planning Reform Programme, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; Dr Pauleen Lane, Professional Lead for Infrastructure, Planning Inspectorate; and Jon Loveday, Director of Infrastructure, Enterprise and Growth, Infrastructure and Projects Authority.
Overall, areas for discussion included:
- assessing proposed reforms: implications for stakeholders and the rollout of NSIPs - options for increasing resources to support reform - skills and training - proposals for cost recovery
- policy guidance: what will be needed to provide the clarity, guidance and strategic direction needed for stakeholders - opportunities for assessing existing and future NSPs
- streamlining: strategies, practicalities and the impact of proposals to fast-track processes such as advice and consents - the selection of projects affected - how statutory timescales can be met
- engagement: enabling local authorities and communities to be proactively involved in discussions surrounding NSIPs - assessing benefit for localities hosting strategically important infrastructure
- environmental impact: the proposed introduction of Environmental Outcomes Reports as a new system of environmental assessment - how the planning system can support national environmental targets - options for responsibly streamlining processes
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from CCC; DBT; Defra; Department for the Economy, NI; Department for Infrastructure, NI; DESNZ; DfT; DLUHC; EA; Forestry Commission; GLD; HSE; Isle of Man Government; MOD; NAO; Ofwat; ORR; Planning Inspectorate; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government.