There are currently only three live road projects that have been accepted by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) under the DCO regime, but Highways England has formally notified PINS of its intention to submit applications for seven new projects next year, including the £1.6 billion A303 upgrade around Stonehenge.
But these schemes are only the tip of the iceberg. The body confirmed last week that it is looking to bring forward around 30 DCO applications between now and 2020.
Experts warned that the applications could put heavy pressure on PINS.
Michael Humphries QC, an infrastructure barrister at Francis Taylor Building, said: "If all these proposals are brought forward on similar timescales, PINS will have a major task. It’s not just about getting enough inspectors, but also the support staff for processing applications."
Jonathan Bower, a partner at law firm Bond Dickinson, added that managing such "resource peaks" would be a challenge. He said: "It would help if the examiners appointed for highway DCOs can build on experience from previous examinations, but it will be a question of managing the available resources."