For this month’s newsletter, we’ve decided to take a slightly different approach to our usual format. In this special issue, our usual round-up of project-related updates from the NSIP world is at section 7. The main focus of the newsletter is instead the various reforms to the NSIP regime which the Government is trailing or consulting upon.
We’ve previously shared our views on why we think the Government’s intentions admirable, but the approach either misguided or not sufficient (individually and cumulatively) to address the systemic issues. They amount to tinkering and will not move the dial because, as we explain later, the basic building blocks of the DCO regime and the way they are being applied is fundamentally not something capable of being significantly speeded up or made less onerous.
We appreciate that it’s easy to criticise though, and far harder to propose solutions. So, as well as using this month’s entry to elaborate on why we don’t think what’s been proposed to date is sufficient, we put forward our alternative, more radical, reform proposal which we’re calling “Project Nutcracker”. The name came about to reflect our feeling that for many projects the NSIP regime is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It might have provided a faster and better consent route for the mega projects (to avoid the lengthy Heathrow T5 and Sizewell B inquiries) but for more run-of-the-mill projects the NSIP regime is actually much lengthier and more manpower intensive than the regimes it replaced.
The premise of Project Nutcracker is that the challenges we are facing require a brand new consent regime which:
- will deal with the unprecedented volume of new energy infrastructure to meet net zero;
- be less resource intensive for all involved (PINS, statutory consultees, developers or planning professionals), and shorter; and
- free up capacity for other projects of national significance to use the DCO regime (water resources, roads, ports, airports etc).
Our proposals are not presented as a final solution, but rather a straw man to provoke debate. We asked ourselves simply: if you had ten years to consent the infrastructure the UK needs, how would you do it – starting with a blank sheet of paper and the basic principles of procedural fairness.
We have discussed the concept with some of our industry friends but are keen to hold a wider workshop on the proposals in the summer. We have also prepared a paper expanding our ideas. Please do get in touch with us directly if you’d be interested in being involved or would like to read more.
For the newsletter see here.
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