06 June 2017
UK – Keith Mitchell jointly authors new report on Effective National Infrastructure on behalf of the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA).
The Planning Act planning process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, (NSIPs), was launched in 2008 in response to concerns about the levels of uncertainty associated with the planning of major infrastructure, and the length of time taken to achieve consents for important national projects. Since then, the Planning Act regime has been incrementally improved, and the broad view of the industry is that it has performed well.
However, concerns have been expressed by many stakeholders about the level of detail associated with the process, and the constraints that this can place on the delivery and design of major projects, and the impact that it can have in terms of accessibility of information for those communities affected by major schemes.
In September 2016, NIPA commissioned a team from the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London to undertake research into these concerns – both to validate, (or otherwise), these perceptions, and to identify practical recommendations to address the issues identified by the research.
This thorough and inclusive ‘NIPA Insights’ research project has now concluded, and provides a detailed body of evidence about unnecessary detail in the process, the impacts that this can have on projects, and recommendations to address these issues. This work is set out in two reports from UCL, and a summary report, authored by Keith Mitchell and Hannah Hickman, was launched at the NIPA AGM on 5 June.
The recommendations are framed in the context of a system that is generally working well, and suggested improvements that can be grouped together to achieve what the then British Cycling’s Sir David Brailsford called the aggregation of marginal gains, small improvements at each stage of the process, by many of the stakeholders, that together would have an impact greater than the sum of its parts.
Underlying this approach is the need to address what has become, for many schemes, a precautionary culture which prioritises the attainment of a Development Consent Order, (DCO), as the key objective, rather than this leading to an effective project, capable of effective delivery. There are many reasons for this precautionary approach, not least the desire on behalf of consultees to understand the detail of projects and their effects, the risk of Judicial Review post consent, and the time and risk associated with changing DCOs once they are made.
The report therefore calls for a more enlightened and informed approach which recognises that there needs to be a better balance between the detail necessary to justify the scheme, and the flexibility needed to ensure projects can adapt to technological development, emerging construction and logistics proposals, and market requirements. Keith was able to draw on his personal, and PBA’s wider DCO experience through the research project, and in the drafting of the summary report.
Keith says, “I have been delighted to be associated with this work on behalf of NIPA and the rest of the Insights project team. The rigorous research undertaken by UCL, and the wide engagement with stakeholders, will underpin the effectiveness of the recommendations. I am looking forward to working with colleagues, Government and other partners to take these recommendations forward, and enhancing the effectiveness of essential investment in infrastructure.”
Download the reports from the NIPA website here.