Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

AuthorWilliam Webster

Chapter 3

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects


3.1 As indicated in Chapter 2, renewable and low carbon development exceeding 50MW is considered under the PA 2008, which passes responsibility for dealing with development consent applications for what are termed NSIPs to PINS, which examines applications and makes recommendations to the SoS at the DBEIS for development consent on energy applications and associated development.

3.2 NSIPs are large-scale developments relating to energy, transport, water or waste. The PA 2008 introduced a new development consent process for NSIPs which was subsequently amended by the Localism Act 2011. A development consent order (DCO) removes the need to obtain several separate consents, including planning permission, and is designed to be a much quicker process than applying for these separately. The DCO process starts when an application is accepted by the National Infrastructure Planning Unit and takes approximately 12–15 months. The process is front-loaded with a number of pre-application consultation requirements which, depending on the complexity of the project, can take a number of years to carry out. The final decision on granting a DCO rests with the SoS in the relevant sector. Chapter 10, Case Study X deals at length with the DCO made by the SoS on 28 May 2020 in relation to Cleve Hill Solar Park on the north Kent coast, which will be the UK’s largest solar farm (and largest battery energy storage system) when it comes online in 2023. The site has a predicted generating capacity of 350MW (enough to power over 91,000 homes and save 68,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum). It comprises 880,000 ground-mounted solar panels on a site said to be as large as 600 football pitches.

44 Renewable Energy from Wind and Solar Power

3.3 The Infrastructure Act 2015 amended the process for changing and revoking DCOs. These changes also involved the formation of a National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to examine the country’s long-term infrastructure needs.1

3.4 In March 2016 onshore wind farms with a capacity of over 50MW were removed from the NSIP regime. As previously indicated, onshore wind farms below the 50MW threshold fall within the TCPA 1990 which reflects the generating capacity threshold of the Electricity Act 1989 for section 36 consents for the construction, extension or operation of a generating station (which was disapplied by the PA 2008). Section 36 applies to proposals for onshore wind farms whose capacity exceeds 50MW. Section 36 also applies to proposals for offshore generating stations exceeding 50MW although the threshold is reduced to 1MW for a generating station within UK territorial waters.


3.5 Applications for DCOs are decided in accordance with NPSs which, after a process of public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, are ‘designated’ or published by government. There are currently 12 designated or proposed NPSs coming under the categories of hazardous waste, water supply, energy, transport networks, aviation and ports. An emerging NPS will carry some weight for decision-takers in the development consent process...

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