Government asks NIC to review major projects planning policy

Grahame Jenkins on Unsplash - Planning for offshore wind projects has been known to take up to four years

Making the planning system better for infrastructure investors, developers and local communities, as well as speeding up the process of gaining planning consent, are the aims of a new review by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The chancellor and minister for local government and building safety has asked for the review to be undertaken by the commission, as the government prepares to publish an action plan on Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

The NIC will review whether the current process of reviewing National Policy Statements (NPSs) every five years is proving effective, and how the strategic statements could provide more confidence in likely planning system outcomes.

It comes as a government document revealed planning consent for offshore wind projects has been known to take up to four years. 

The current planning framework for NSIPs was introduced in the Planning Act 2008, with the Planning Inspectorate now responsible for the administration of NSIP applications on behalf of the Secretary of State, who makes the final decision on whether to grant or refuse the application. 

The government document notes that the regime initially helped speed up consenting, but that “the system has slowed in recent years, with the timespan for granting DCOs increasing by 65% between 2012 and 2021. For example, offshore wind projects have been seen to take up to four years to get through the DCO process.”

The NIC report will set out recommendations for what could be done, alongside the imminent action plan, to address the speed of consenting to help deliver the major infrastructure projects the UK needs for the future. 

The NIC will set out proposed short and longer term actions that build on other reforms, drawing on insights from the commission’s engagement with infrastructure operators, investors and representative bodies.

The study will not consider housing or business and commercial projects, which sit outside the commission’s remit, and recommendations will only cover England due to the devolved nature of planning.

The NIC will begin work immediately on the study, with a final report due to be published in the Spring.

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