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Home / News and Insights / News / Surge in highways projects masks lack of other types of infrastructure

The 6th annual Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) Forum will be taking place on 7 – 8 February 2018 in London. The NSIPs Forum provides a complete guide on how to successfully apply for a development consent order and also advises on how to move projects towards construction and operation, bringing together over 200 project promoters, local authorities, statutory consultees and planning professionals over the course of two days.

Ahead of this event, Angus Walker, partner in our government and infrastructure team, discusses the current state of infrastructure consents.

Surge in highways projects masks lack of other types of infrastructure

2018 NSIPs Forum couldn’t come at a more auspicious time for discussing the current state of infrastructure consents, 10 years since the Planning Act 2008 regime received royal assent.

There was an initial slow start – the first application was not accepted for examination and the third was withdrawn during the examination. The second, for the Rookery South energy from waste project, obtained consent as the only project approved by the Infrastructure Planning Commission before its dissolution, but was never built.

After that, use of the regime gradually increased, peaking at 27 applications simultaneously somewhere between the application being made and being decided in August 2014.

Then in a near mirror-image, the use of the regime has gradually declined, down to just six in the system at the time of writing. The symmetry is almost complete – the latest application is for a power station adjacent to Rookery South.

But that’s not the whole story. Rumbling away are a huge number of highway projects in prospect, with National Highways, custodian of England’s motorway and trunk road network, planning to apply for 36 more Development Consent Orders in the next two or three years. This may well surpass the 2014 peak and will put a considerable strain on a system currently used to not much happening.

To me that is quite a challenge, but it is also a distraction from the much more serious issue of lack of electricity generation. The National Infrastructure Commission, in its interim National Infrastructure Assessment published in October, notes that two-thirds of the UK’s power stations are expected to close by 2030, and yet the demand for electricity is expected to soar when the two main high-carbon uses of energy, transport and heating, switch to electricity. New power just isn’t coming on-stream fast enough – according to National Infrastructure Planning Association-commissioned research, only one electricity generation NSIP has been fully implemented since the regime started.

I will be taking this theme forward in my presentation to the NSIPs Forum, and I think that this context will make the event a very interesting one.

Join Angus and other expert speakers at 2018’s Forum (7 – 8 Feb, London)

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