Go-ahead for plan to allow changes to major consents

The government says it intends to push ahead with plans to streamline the system to change planning consents for major infrastructure projects once they have been granted, following a consultation.

Major infrastructure: proposals to clarify consents so process less time-consuming (pic Network Rail)
Major infrastructure: proposals to clarify consents so process less time-consuming (pic Network Rail)

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published responses to a consultation launched in July on the approval of development control orders (DCOs), which are granted to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects under the fast-track regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

Responses to the consultation revealed strong support for the changes and the government said it will now press forward with the proposals that will clarify and shorten the process for making changes to approved orders.

At present, scheme promoters face a mandatory examination for all applications for a material change to granted DCOs – in effect meaning they have to go through the whole application process again.

More than 70 per cent of respondents supported the government’s proposal to give the secretary of state the right to waive the requirement for an examination in cases where only a small number of representations are received.

The government said it will amend regulations to incorporate this power, but added that it still "expects an examination is likely to be necessary in the vast majority of cases".

A second move would impose a strict timetable on the examination process, with 86 per cent of respondents supporting the intention to require the examining authority and secretary of state to produce recommendations and a decision within two months each.

Robbie Owen, head of infrastructure planning at law firm Pinsent Masons, welcomed the move, but he questioned whether it would have a significant impact. He said out of the 28 decisions made so far under the DCO regime, not one successful promoter has yet applied to make a material change.

Owen said: "The government is clearly aware that the way the system was originally conceived is not going to work, even though it has never operated yet.

"However, amendments are best avoided – promoters need to ensure that their original application is sufficiently flexible so they do not have to go through the process at all."??

Angus Walker, partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said pressure from local populations and environmental campaign groups often led to more detail being included in DCO applications than is strictly necessary.

He added that some developers may have been inhibited from applying for a change under the present system due to the anticipated length of the process and that changes to shorten the process might see more applications coming forward.??

But he said: "Even under the changes, in some circumstances they may not think that it is worth it and will seek to make changes through the normal planning process. This could apply to things such as electric cabling, which do not relate to the main part of the application."??

The government also garnered 86 per cent support for a proposal to clarify when proposed changes to a DCO will be considered material or not.? These related to environmental considerations and the compulsory acquisition of new land.??

The Department for Communities and Local Government has published responses to a consultation launched in July on the approval of development control orders (DCOs), which are granted to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects under the fast-track regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008.

Responses to the consultation revealed strong support for the changes and the government said it will now press forward with the proposals that will clarify and shorten the process for making changes to approved orders.

At present, scheme promoters face a mandatory examination for all applications for a material change to granted DCOs – in effect meaning they have to go through the whole application process again.

More than 70 per cent of respondents supported the government’s proposal to give the secretary of state the right to waive the requirement for an examination in cases where only a small number of representations are received.

The government said it will amend regulations to incorporate this power, but added that it still "expects an examination is likely to be necessary in the vast majority of cases".

A second move would impose a strict timetable on the examination process, with 86 per cent of respondents supporting the intention to require the examining authority and secretary of state to produce recommendations and a decision within two months each.

Robbie Owen, head of infrastructure planning at law firm Pinsent Masons, welcomed the move, but he questioned whether it would have a significant impact. He said out of the 28 decisions made so far under the DCO regime, not one successful promoter has yet applied to make a material change.

Owen said: "The government is clearly aware that the way the system was originally conceived is not going to work, even though it has never operated yet.

"However, amendments are best avoided – promoters need to ensure that their original application is sufficiently flexible so they do not have to go through the process at all."??

Angus Walker, partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, said pressure from local populations and environmental campaign groups often led to more detail being included in DCO applications than is strictly necessary.

He added that some developers may have been inhibited from applying for a change under the present system due to the anticipated length of the process and that changes to shorten the process might see more applications coming forward.??

But he said: "Even under the changes, in some circumstances they may not think that it is worth it and will seek to make changes through the normal planning process. This could apply to things such as electric cabling, which do not relate to the main part of the application."??

The government also garnered 86 per cent support for a proposal to clarify when proposed changes to a DCO will be considered material or not.? These related to environmental considerations and the compulsory acquisition of new land.??

Andrew Woodisse, technical director of planning at consultancy URS, said this proposal is "sensible" and would ensure greater certainty for developers.


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