RPS Delivers Masterclass on Infrastructure Planning Applications

26.02.15

On 10th-11th February Pinsent Masons Offices in London was the venue for Waterfront’s annual ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) Applications Master Class 2015’. The event, sponsored by RPS and CgMs, provided in-depth guidance to 190 delegates from a wide range of companies developing UK infrastructure on how to apply for development consent orders using the Planning Act 2008. Across the two days, all the processes and key requirements were considered through detailed presentations and case studies on each stage leading to the grant of approval for a nationally significant infrastructure project.

David Cowan, Managing Director for Planning and Environment at RPS, and Simone Wilding, Head of National Infrastructure Case Management at the Planning Inspectorate, delivered the first session of the event which comprised an overview of the current issues in the consents regime and an update on changes being made this year to the application process. David communicated RPS’ in depth knowledge of the regime as a highly skilled practitioner, speaking from experience. He provided an insightful overview into how well the current regime is working, including a useful analysis of timescales, emerging trends and key issues. Using comparisons of the current NSIP regime with previous consent processes and other alternatives still in use, he concluded that the current regime was working well in terms of delivering consents as well as being more open, transparent and fair and identified some areas where further improvements could be made. He also gave his thoughts on the future of the current process following the General Election in May. On Day Two, David was also able to give a helpful perspective on the objectives of the Preliminary Environmental Information stage from his involvement in consultations on the original drafting of the current regime and regulations in 2009.

The first day continued to focus on the current and proposed changes to the Development Consent Order process, preparation of an application and different sectors’ experience of the application and Examination process. The second day focussed on a range of case studies on the co-ordination of the Environmental Impact Assessment for NSIPs and the preparation for the Examination stage and hearings.

Over the two days a number of speakers from a variety of sectors presented to the delegates from infrastructure providers, scheme promoters, local government, statutory consultees, law firms and consultants. The presentations highlighted the importance of early pre-application engagement with all stakeholders and the requirement for the scheme promoter to provide a concise application that responds to all issues raised through the consultation stages and during the examination. One of the most important matters covered included the challenge of altering an application after it has been submitted and how to build a degree of flexibility into the proposal to manage the tension between commercial requirements and certainty. Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons gave a particularly useful presentation on this point and former IPC/PINS Inspector Jan Bessell, now also of Pinsent Masons, gave an insight to the Examining Authority’s perspective.

David Cowan has worked on a total of eight NSIPs at all stages of preparation since the current regime was established under the Planning Act 2008. He is currently advising SMartWind on the Hornsea offshore wind farm DCOs and Gatwick Airport Ltd (who were also in attendance at the conference, as were Heathrow) on their proposal for a second runway, which is currently the subject of the Airports Commission consultation.

The event was attended by project promoters including Scottish Power, Vattenfall, EoN, Tidal Lagoon Power, the HA, Network Rail, TfL, National Grid, Gaelectric, Horizon Nuclear Power, Western Power and Wheelabrator and it was therefore an excellent opportunity for RPS/CgMs to sponsor the event which brought a number of industry professionals together.

RPS staff involved in promoting DCO applications are happy to share their experience and lessons learned with project promoters and those thinking of promoting projects. If you would like to hear more contact David Cowan: +44 (0) 1235 821 888; or marked FAO: David Cowan reference DCO Applications to: rpsox@rpsgroup.com