Development consent orders (DCOs) are given to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) that use the fast-track major infrastructure planning regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.
The process of changing an order varies depending on whether the change is considered to be ‘material’ or ‘non-material’.
Currently, applicants wishing to make ‘material’ changes to DCOs after they are granted have to effectively repeat the entire application process, which takes a year from the point at which examination begins.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) outlined proposals for consultation in July which proposed shortening this process and removing the need for another examination in certain circumstances.
It also said it would provide guidance clarifying whether a change is considered to material or not.
For material changes, the consultation proposed making the process "simpler and quicker" and "proportionate to the nature of the change being proposed".
The government said yesterday that it would proceed with its plan for the secretary of state to be able to "dispense with the need to hold an examination should they determine that it is not necessary".
Though it added: "The Government expects an examination is likely to be necessary in the vast majority of cases."
It said it would amend the 2011 Regulations to "make it clear that where the Secretary of State decides not to hold an examination, there will be an opportunity for all of those who submitted relevant representations on the application for change to make further representations".
It will also amend the 2011 Regulations to "set a shorter statutory timetable for considering an application for a material change", setting an eight-month limit.
Any examination would take a maximum of four months, a recommendation produced within two months, and the secretary of state would have to reach a decision within a further two months.
The government said it would also simplifying the pre-application and consultation requirements for applicants.
For non-material changes to a DCO, applicants just have to ask the secretary of state for permission.
Changes the DCLG said it would implement for this process include making the applicant, rather than the secretary of state, responsible for publicising and consulting upon its proposed DCO change.
The government said "this would speed up the process and bring it into line with similar procedures elsewhere in the 2008 Act".
It also outlined changes to the publicity and consultation procedures for non-material amendments.
A third key change the DCLG said it would proceed with is the creation of guidance clarifying whether a change would be material or not.
It suggested "three characteristics" that would indicate whether a change "was more likely to be material". These were:
if an update would be required to the environmental statement to take account of likely significant effects on the environment;
whether there would be a need for a Habitats Regulations Assessment, or the need for a new or additional licence in respect of European Protected Species;
if it would involved compulsory acquisition of any land not authorised through the existing DCO.
The consultation received 189 responses according to the DCLG.
The Planning Inspectorate last week published advice for applicants drafting applications for DCOs.