House of Commons Library Standard Note on Infrastructure Policy

Development Consent Orders for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects are granted by the Secretary of State as an alternative to needing planning permission from a local authority. The Government has proposed some changes to this regime, some of which will require new legislation. This note provides further information.

The Planning Act 2008, (the 2008 Act), introduced a new development consent process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). NSIPs are usually large scale developments (relating to energy, transport, water, or waste) which require a type of consent known as "development consent". An extension of the regime in 2013 now allows certain business and commercial projects to opt into this process.

A Development Consent Order (DCO) automatically removes the need to obtain several separate consents, including planning permission and is designed to be a much quicker process than applying for these separately. The DCO process starts when an application is formally accepted by the National Infrastructure Planning Unit and lasts approximately 12-15 months. The final decision on granting a DCO rests with the Secretary of State for that field, based on advice from planning inspectors – known as the "examining authority".

Applications for DCOs are decided in accordance with National Policy Statements (NPSs), which after a process of consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny are formally "designated" by Government. There are currently 12 designated or proposed NPSs, which fall under the categories of hazardous waste, water supply, energy, transport networks, aviation and ports.

In November 2013 the Government concluded that wholesale change to the DCO regime could damage developer confidence. There was a consensus, however, that some minor changes were needed to provide more clarity and speed to the process. A Government consultation and response confirmed that new guidance would be published to clarify what information developers need to provide with applications and what help is available. Following this, in the Queen’s Speech 2014 it was announced that an Infrastructure Bill would be introduced to, among other things, allow the panel of examining inspectors on an application for a DCO to be appointed more quickly, for only 2 inspectors to be appointed, and to simplify the process for modifying DCOs.

This note sets out these issues in more detail. It applies to England and in some circumstances to Wales (see section 1.2).

Date: 10/12/2014 Date of publication

Author: House of Commons

DCP link: This item updates DCP section 3.114

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