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NSIPs Action Plan: Proposed planning overhaul

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has published its ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure: action plan for reforms to the planning process’.  The plan explains various actions the government intends to take to improve the planning regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).


What problems does the NSIPs action plan seek to solve?

Since the NSIPs regime was introduced thirteen years ago, national and international factors influencing the UK’s infrastructure development agenda have changed.  Since that time, the concept of ‘Net Zero’ has moved from academic science to mainstream policy.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the importance of energy security and resilience.  Political, economic and consumer-conscience drivers have significantly altered the nature and extent of infrastructure demand within the UK.  Technology and innovation are prompting unprecedented schemes, many of which have cumulative impacts and require new strategic solutions. So, the number, variety and complexity of NSIPs projects coming to fruition is increasing. All of that is contributing to a slowing of the consenting process, and at a time when the opposite is needed.  There are also concerns that the NSIPs process, which is underpinned by the national policy statements (NPS) system, is simply not dynamic enough to cater for today’s fast-moving and ever-changing regulatory environment. The government’s NSIPs action plan seeks to address these issues.

What does the NSIPs action plan propose?

The NSIPs action plan proposes several cross-departmental actions which the government is taking and will take in an attempt to effect meaningful change. The proposed actions are summarised below.

Review NPSs
  • Water Resources, Energy, National Networks, Nuclear Power Generation, Nuclear Fusion NSPs to be reviewed to provide an up-to-date case for infrastructure, taking into account the Environmental Outcomes Report process (which is being introduced under Part 5 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB))
  • Target timeline: 2023-2025
Update NSP review planning guidance
  • National Infrastructure Commission to conduct a study to determine how NSPs can be reviewed more regularly and how the process can be improved
  • Target timeline: Spring 2024
Streamline PA 2008 application process
  • Streamline and potentially introduce proportionality into the statutory consultees consenting process under the Planning Act 2008
  • Target timeline: Spring 2024
Establish new ‘fast track’ consenting option
  • LURB power to shorten maximum examination timeframe to be used to set shorter timeframes for examination where defined quality standards are met.
  • Target timeline: Consult from Spring 2023, pilot from September 2023
Introduce new application service portal
  • PINS pre-application service to be enhanced through stronger project management, provision of authoritive planning advice and project tracking.  DLUHC guidance will also provide greater clarity on required application standards
  • Target timeline: Summer 2023
Digital transformation of NSIPs services
  • Digital transformation and rationalisation of information requirements will make submission and assessment of applications easier and will improve transparency and stakeholder engagement
  • Target timeline: Ongoing to 2024
Establish new Environmental Outcomes Reports (EOR) process
  • New EOR process to replace SEAs and EIAs
  • Target timeline: Following LURB Royal Assent and further consultation on secondary legislation
Review protected sites and species policy framework
  • Target timeline: 2030
Incorporate Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirements for terrestrial NSIP projects and develop approach for marine
  • Target timeline: Consultation in respect of terrestrial BNG requirements early 2023; commencement November 2025.  Detail for marine BNG system to be developed in due course.
Implement new Offshore Wind (OFW) Environmental Improvement package
  • Development of a library of strategic compensation measures where impacts on Marine Protected Areas cannot be avoided/reduced/mitigated; potential changes to HRA process for OFW developments; establishment of Marine Recovery Fund; implementation of OFW Environmental Standards and strategic monitoring
  • Target timeline: Following Energy Bill Royal Assent
Marine planning reform
  • Implementation of Marine Spatial Prioritisation Programme and related planning reform
  • Target timeline: Early 2024
Local Authority Innovation and Capacity Fund
  • Continue to support LA engagement
  • Target timeline: Ongoing
Build upon Local Authority Support Network
  • Continue to support LA engagement
  • Target timeline: Ongoing
Develop guidance on community engagement
  • Infrastructure developers will be expected to demonstrate that community views have been considered and catered for
  • Target timeline: Spring 2023
Consult on community benefit from hosting electricity transmission network infrastructure


  • Target timeline: Early 2023
Develop strategies to develop NSIP skills/ capabilities gaps in government agencies


  • Target timeline: From end 2022
Move towards full cost recover for NSIP consenting


  • Target timeline: Financial year 2024-25

    NSIPs action plan: WM insight

    Although many of the proposed reforms are not new, project promoters will welcome them all being brought together in a single action plan to more clearly say what improvements will be made, when they will be made and how they will be funded. However, developers of complex projects, such as offshore wind and transmission networks, may be dismayed that the action plan doesn’t offer potential solutions to the strategic challenges facing their sectors.

    The future for NSIPs: How WM can help

    Change to the NSIPs regime is needed, and is coming. If the UK government’s aims of updating, streamlining and improving the regime, including reviewing underlying NSPs and overhauling the process for their more regular review, infrastructure developers could start to benefit from positive changes and efficiencies. Proposed actions under the NSIPs plan are wide-ranging and cross-departmental. They will impact different roles within, and various aspects of, infrastructure development in different ways.

    Walker Morris’ specialist Planning & Environment and Infrastructure & Energy lawyers can help businesses to successfully navigate, and to capitalise upon, the various NSIPs changes on the horizon. We can work seamlessly across the relevant legal disciplines and affected sectors to help businesses working in the infrastructure development environment in a variety of ways. We can assist in an advisory capacity, keeping clients fully informed as to legal/regulatory changes and requirements. We can undertake contract- and policy/procedure- reviews to highlight where new terms or approaches might be preferable or needed. Where necessary, we can help with contractual negotiations and with drafting new contractual arrangements or variations as required. If/when complaints or queries do arise, we can provide strategic and dispute resolution advice and we can guide businesses through any investigations or complaints-handling processes. In addition, we can support development clients from cradle to grave, offering strategic, risk management, practical and transactional advice in relation to all aspects of infrastructure projects and real estate/planning transactions.

    For tailored advice in connection with any development projects, or any planning proposals or concerns, please contact Richard Sagar, Chris Slater or Ben Sheppard, or any member of the Planning & Environment and Infrastructure & Energy teams.



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Infrastructure & Energy

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Planning & Environment

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