Ahead of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Forum, (organised by Waterfront Conference Company, Freshwater’s sister Company) Anna Pickering, Regional Investment Programme, Development Consent Orders/ Statutory Process at Highways England shares some of her advice for the NSIP application process.
What one piece of advice would you give to promoters who are at the beginning of the application process?
The beginning of the process is not the beginning of the application process, but earlier on in terms of project definition and then the optioneering process. If you leave planning success in the NSIP process to a point shortly before statutory consultation under the Planning Act 2008, you have left it too late. Early steps need to build in a forward look towards aspects like policy compliance (particularly the relevant National Policy Statement(s)) and stakeholder acceptability that will be critical to decision-making, along with flexibility required for eventual implementation. This is so that early work does not cause problems during later, statutory activities.
Another piece of advice: secure a project team with a wide variety of specialisms including contractor engagement at an early stage. This includes legal, planning, environmental, compulsory acquisition and stakeholder management specialists, as well as designers, project managers and contractors who understand the specifics of the NSIP process. Lastly, consider your key stakeholders part of your extended project team; whether they are mainly for or against your project, they will influence it.
What are the biggest challenges facing NSIP delivery? What can be done at pre application to ensure flexibility and help support implementation?
There are a couple of challenges leading to my advice above. One challenge is the lack of people experienced in the process, which means the industry is competing for a limited pool of resources. Another challenge is the length of the process needed for these large projects from early engagement to implementation. A lot changes, whether due to an issue arising on site during construction, or – more positively – technical innovation. The promoter is exposed to various risks of change. However, demonstrating honesty and openness about your situation, and involving your specialists and stakeholders in determining and justifying the flexibility needed along with control processes should help. This is a strategy that promoters should adopt to drive an appropriate degree of flexibility to implement their projects.
What are the potential challenges projects face due to aging national policy statements?
Some of the National Policy Statements are already older than 5 years, and they have not been updated yet. Since their publication, legislation and guidance on some topics has been updated, which is increasing risks of difference between their content and that in newer legislation and guidance. However, National Policy Statements are lengthy documents covering a broad scope. It will take a lot of work to update each one.
To learn more about nationally significant infrastructure planning, register to attend Waterfront’s NSIP Forum 5-6th February 2020 in London.
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