A response has been made to the consultation by the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA), an industry body whose aim is to "advocate and promote an effective, accountable, efficient, fair and inclusive system for the planning and authorisation of nationally significant infrastructure projects."
In summary, NIPA welcomes the proposed changes as a positive step but it also sets out further recommended changes that it believes will benefit the DCO process.
NIPA agrees with DCLG's proposals to merge local authority guidance together with the current pre-application consultation guidance. Expanding upon this theme, it also suggests that the eventual merger of the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2009 together with the relevant parts of the Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009 and the Infrastructure Planning (Examination Procedure) Regulations 2009 should be considered to ensure a single process for promoters.
The response goes on to set out a number of areas where it feels that further clarity and advice could be provided in the draft pre-application guidance published by DCLG encompassing: what constitutes an NSIP; references to out of date guidance, the model provisions and their status; streamlining the DCO process and communication with statutory consultees; additional advice on the drafting of DCO statutory instruments; and the treatment of alternatives as part of the application process.
NIPA also raises the lack of guidance and advice on applications for directions that a project is below or outside of the NSIP thresholds set out in the Planning Act 2008 and Section 35 of the Act.
Turning to the draft guidance on associated development, whilst NIPA recognises and welcomes the intention to "allow associated development that is over specified to provide for shared use with other forthcoming projects", it states that "this may turn out to be ultra vires" as a consequence of Section 115(2)(a) of the Planning Act 2008 and the requirement for such development to be associated with the NSIP that is the subject of the application. NIPA also queries the reference in the draft guidance to the 'Innovia' case.
The Response goes on to set out a number of additional matters where NIPA feels that it would be helpful for the draft examination guidance to cover including: time frames for relevant representations and other documents to be published; discussion of 'principal issues' at preliminary meetings; audit trails for the drafting and approval of Local Impact Reports by local authorities which also focuses on relevant content and timescales; the publication of matters to be discussed at hearings; the need for further clarity on the evolving DCO and explanatory memorandum and any accompanying Section 106; tightening of timescales; and the need for guidance and advice on amendments to DCOs, DCO applications and the issue of 'materiality'. NIPA states that there is an "urgent need for certainty and consistency".
NIPA's response also goes on to comment on the draft compulsory acquisition, fees and application form guidance.