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Government to review Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime in bid to halve process time for some projects

The Government has launched an operational review of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime with the aim of some projects going through the process in up to half the time than at present.

Established in 2008, the regime has seen 100 energy, transport, water, wastewater and waste developments determined with a 95% approval rate.

In a letter to the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA), Housing Minister Christopher Pincher said: “[The NSIP regime] has a strong record for offering high quality consents, robust to legal challenge and with certainty of timescales for investors.”

He said the Government was committed to further developing and improving the regime, but that the context in which it was established was changing constantly.

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“New and novel types of projects are using the process, some communities are experiencing clusters of NSIPs, and each NSIP brings with it increasingly significant volume of information to interrogate,” Pincher said.

“The overall recent pattern for NSIPs is one of longer timescales and greater complexity and looking ahead the regime will need to continue to navigate global challenges such as climate change and rapid technological change. It is important that the planning process responds to these challenges and is able to play its full role in driving our economic recovery, and progress towards Net Zero.”

The Housing Minister’s letter set out the Government’s roadmap to September 2023. There are three main strands:

  • Operational Review/Project Acceleration: the review will be of the end to end process and all its interactions. The Government also wants to identify and tackle underlying problems.
  • National Policy Statements: the coordination of relevant departments’ reviews of their respective NPSs is “already under way and is a long-term commitment”.
  • EIA/SEA reform: the NSIP regime “has the potential to benefit significantly” from the Government’s commitment, contained in the Planning for the Future White Paper, to reform environmental assessment “to deliver a quicker and simpler framework for assessing environmental impacts and to secure better outcomes for the environment”.

The letter outlined three key milestones for NSIP users. The government intends to provide a progress update on the reform programme in Autumn 2021. It intends to formally consult in Spring 2022 on proposed measures for the NSIP regime for introduction ahead of September 2023. By Autumn 2022: the government wants users of the regime to be clear about how it is changing, and what is required of them, “in good time to meet the ambition that schemes will benefit from improvements from September 2023”.

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