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12 February 2020

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Forum 2020: key takeaways

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) Forum is a two-day event designed to provide delegates with essential updates on major infrastructure planning and the latest insight on how to successfully gain DCO approval.

Over 200 major infrastructure professionals from promoters, planning consultants, to local authorities and statutory consultees attend the annual event to hear practical guidance on all aspects of NSIP planning including the Planning Act 2008 regime, and to gain insight on how to overcome some of the biggest challenges currently facing the process.

This year delegates heard from Tom Henderson and Richard Marsh, partners in our planning and infrastructure team, over both days.

Key takeaways

On day one, Tom Henderson spoke alongside a panel of experts on ‘Top learnings and lessons from the application process’, covering:

  • expectations of the process vs reality and how the best-laid schemes of DCO promoters often go awry;
  • the importance of resilience, agility and problem-solving skills during the process;
  • reasons for not losing focus on why the proposal is a positive idea;
  • how despite some first-time users approaching the process with dread, if planned properly, the DCO process can and should be a rewarding experience;
  • important pre-application lessons, such as identifying whether the basis for the scheme being an NSIP is clear enough, potential problems during consultation, how engagement is important and that regular dialogue and transparency pays off, avoid overlooking the complexity of land referencing and agreeing a compliant approach to ‘diligent inquiry’ at the outset; and
  • key post-application lessons, which include considering how a DCO application can include options, understanding how new information / scheme changes can be introduced post-application, considering the option to avoid re-running the entire statutory notification process if there are errors, anticipating and planning for the questions that will be asked, comprehensively answering the ExA’s questions, planning resources for the examination process, and considering how the decision-making phase is increasingly being extended and involving consultations and further work for applicants.

On day two, Richard Marsh delivered a session on ‘Making amendments to DCOs – how can it be done?’, discussing:

  • that the requisite degree of flexibility cannot always be built into DCOs, so a proportionate procedure for amending DCOs is necessary;
  • the types of changes that can be made to DCOs ie correction orders, non-material changes, and material changes;
  • the procedural steps and timings involved in non-material changes and material changes and key differences between the two types of amendment; and
  • the pros and cons of the current system for making changes and some suggestions as to how the system could be improved.

If you are a NSIP promoter (or potential NSIP promoter) and have any queries on the NSIP regime then please do contact a member of our specialist infrastructure planning team.

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