ACE welcomes NIC report recommending improved planning processes

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has joined key infrastructure representatives and environmentalists responding to an NIC report, which recommends improved planning timescales and environmental data.

Stephen Marcos Jones, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) said it was pleasing to see the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) putting communities and the environment at the heart of faster planning processes.

He added this would "benefit the industry and the whole of the UK, as we work towards achieving net zero and economic growth".

“As the report says, improving the speed and effectiveness of our planning system needn’t be to the detriment of the environment or the communities where major infrastructure work is taking place and we welcome the suggestions made by the NIC to achieve faster planning processes," he said.

“The fact the NIC has recommended this alongside measures to not only mitigate potential adverse effects on the environment, but actually improve environmental data gathering is particularly encouraging.

“We also welcome the suggestion to improve benefits for local communities where major infrastructure development is taking place."

He added the NIC review is "very much in line with our members’ onus on delivering social value as part of infrastructure design and raising carbon literacy across the sector".

“We look forward to working with the NIC on the next steps for this report and will continue our ongoing engagement with government departments on key milestones as set out in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects action plan,” he said.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said a central and standardised environmental data sharing platform was an “excellent recommendation, which could help to reduce the ongoing and often unnecessary toll that major infrastructure takes on nature”. 

“If it were combined with Local Nature Recovery Strategies legally linked to the planning system, then it could represent a major step toward nature-positive planning,” he said.

Marta Krajewska, Deputy Director of Policy at Energy UK, said: “The planning system will play a crucial role in enabling the energy sector to help deliver the transformational change required to achieve Net Zero - but the increasing delays we’ve seen in recent years threaten to undermine the government’s own targets for accelerating the production of domestic clean energy. 

“We welcome the Commission’s recommendation to develop a central coordination body to ensure that National Policy Statements are updated regularly and provide the clarity required to deliver a faster, more flexible planning system and increase certainity for investors. 

“Bringing onshore wind into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) system would also demonstrate the Government’s ambitions for onshore wind, putting it on a level playing field with other energy projects so that we’re making the most of our potential resources and delivering infrastructure that will enable willing local communities to benefit from new developments.”

Carl Trowell, President of Strategic Infrastructure, National Grid, said: “We welcome the Commission’s emphasis on linking in strategic spatial plans for electricity transmission infrastructure to the National Policy Statements, to provide a robust needs case for these critical projects to be delivered at pace. 

“The report’s recommendations form a positive step in helping keep net zero and decarbonisation targets in sight. 

“However, the UK still requires a step change in how strategic transmission network projects must be planned, consented and consulted on if the country is to materially speed up the delivery of infrastructure.”

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive for Anglian Water, said: “Given the urgent challenges of water scarcity and climate change here in the East of England, and the pressing need to ensure water for future generations, today’s important report is welcome.

"Its recommendations would significantly help to provide the speed, flexibility and certainty required in the planning system to enable action, secure future resilience, and realise additional environmental and social benefits for our growing communities.”

The Commission’s findings have been sent to the Chancellor and the Minister of State for Local Government and Building Safety.

The government is obliged to respond formally to the Commission’s recommendations.


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