The UCL team – commissioned to undertake the research for NIPA – attended the event and presented their emerging findings from the study to provide an opportunity for participants to comment on the output including the draft recommendations before the work is finalised for publication at the NIPA AGM later in the year.
The emerging findings and recommendations presented at the meeting can be accessed HERE. The research team also updated the meeting on their two cases studies of the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon road scheme and the Galloper Off-Shore Wind Farm.
The event was extremely well attended and included a wide variety of experienced NSIP practitioners including lawyers, consultants and clients.
The principle focus of the discussion was on the emerging recommendations. The main issues arising were:
- The potential for deliverability to be included as an acceptance criteria. There was some concern amongst participants as to what would actually be checked if ‘deliverability’ (aka risks to delivery) is considered at the acceptance stage. Some discussion suggested that a document could be required at acceptance but not checked as part of that time limited process, but required for later consideration like the financial statement. There was some suggestion that perhaps this could be a tool for promoters to voluntarily use - but there was concern that to change behaviour a formal ‘hook’ would be needed. Some felt it would be better to allow the Examining Authority to decide if they need a hearing on flexibility rather than trying to force one.
- The level of Design Detail in DCOs - There seems to be considerable uncertainty / variation in practice about the extent to which a DCO can replicate an outline planning application under the TCPA – thereby leaving detailed design to be addressed through requirements (equivalent to reserved matters). There were some reservations about the DCO process adopting the characteristics of a planning regime given that DCO’s are statutory instrument. There was broad agreement about the need for greater clarity about the differences between requirements and protective provisions.
- Variations in practice by sector – It is clear that there are real variations in practice by sector given the differing needs and requirements of different types of infrastructure. There was some discussion of the potential role for PINS or other guidance on these issues to illustrate the potential need for flexibility across sectors. Guidance could give confidence on how the DCO process can be a flexible one, detailing routes to flexibility that exist already.
- Making changes to DCOs – One of the drivers for further flexibility in DCO’s is the perceived, and actual, difficulty in making changes to DCOs. There was some discussion of the merits of introducing a statutory timetable for decision on non-material changes. Some participants were of the view that Local Planning Authorities or PINS could be given formal responsibility for dealing with non-material changes or s73 type applications in future.
- Role of codes in fulfilling requirements – There was some discussion of the numerous ‘codes’ employed in the DCO process and their role in specifying mitigation measures e.g. codes of construction practice; construction environmental management plan etc. As there is no standard practice there was some discussion of whether there could be some standardisation / streamlining.
The UCL team is finalising their recommendations taking into account feedback from this event and other consultation events with stakeholders, including those involved in the primary research, NIPA Council and the NIPA Member Stakeholder Steering Group.
The final report will be launched at the NIPA AGM later on in the year.