We are pleased to announce that the Five Estuaries project, along with seven other UK Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP), is taking part in the Planning Inspectorate’s Early Adopters Programme.
This has been created to support Government thinking around how to improve the current planning process, which has, over recent years tended to become longer and more complex for various reasons. The programme has commenced at a time when associated National Policy Statements are in the process of being updated to reflect current legislation, energy reform strategies and Government targets.
The Early Adopters Programme has been established for development projects which are preparing their applications, to trial potential components of a future Enhanced Pre-Application Service. The intention is for this service to be available to all developers as a mechanism to optimise frontloading and contribute to smoother examinations.
We see this as an important part in the Government’s strategy to reform the pre-application and consenting process for NSIP’s to achieve more efficient and timely delivery of essential energy projects in the UK. We welcome being invited to participate in this programme and to trial some of these components. Following review of our consultation feedback and project deliverables we now anticipate submitting our DCO application in February / March 2024, rather than at the end of 2023. Our onward delivery timeline remains the same, to allow the Project to be generating renewable energy by 2030.
Five Estuaries has been accepted onto the programme as we are due to submit our application for a Development Consent Order between September 2023 and March 2024 under the programmes criteria and have committed to trialling the following components.
COMPONENT 1: Use of Programme Planning
Developers are required to share detailed timelines to promote greater awareness of project programmes and key milestones to allow consultees to plan their resource and involvement effectively, to improve overall outcomes for projects.
In support of this we have created a detailed programme which is available on our website and shared with key stakeholders. It provides details of key stakeholder engagement and meetings, consultation and community engagement activities, a breakdown of examination phases and other key project milestones. This will be updated and communicated regularly as an open source of information and to provide programme certainty and early warning of changing timescales.
We shall be requesting feedback from key consultees on whether the increased awareness of programme dates was helpful in planning their involvement with Five Estuaries examination and consider whether there is a tool we can use to gauge whether giving more advanced information and/or notice of the programme improved the level or quality of engagement from consultees.
COMPONENT 5: Production of Policy Compliance Document
We will prepare a Policy Compliance Document (PCD) to accompany our DCO application. This is a simple and accessible document, which summarises and identifies policy compliance and any issues.
We shall work with The Planning Inspectorate in production of this document and use our experience and best practice to create a template that supports this requirement. The emerging format of this document will be regularly reviewed throughout creation and through use in examination by The Planning Inspectorate and identified stakeholders.
COMPONENT 10: Use of multipartite meetings
Developers often hold multiparty meetings during Pre-application to highlight and resolve key cross-interest issues or reach consensus on the way forward. This includes more regular combined meetings with other developers in the region such as National Grid. This could include topics such as; Habitats Regulation Assessment, shipping and navigation and the onshore substation access.
The Planning Inspectorate will act as a facilitator in these meetings to issue advice in relation to the planning and examination process. To establish how beneficial these meetings were, we shall request feedback from consultees and The Planning Inspectorate on how they supported resolving key issues.