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Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) are projects of certain types, over a certain size, which are considered by the Government to be so big and nationally important that permission to build them needs to be given at a national level, by the responsible Government minister (the ‘Secretary of State’). Instead of applying to the local authority for Planning Permission, the developer must apply to the Planning Inspectorate for a different permission called a Development Consent Order (DCO). The NSIP process is defined through the Planning Act 2008 (as amended).

Responsibility for accepting and examining the NSIP application rests with the Planning Inspectorate (PINs) on behalf of the Secretary of State and not the local authorities, who are identified as statutory consultees, or ‘host’ authorities, in the NSIP process.

The process

The whole NSIP process from the formal submission of the application through to determination and decision normally takes around 15 months. This is broken down as follows:

  • 28 days for the Planning Inspectorate to accept the application;
  • A flexible period for pre-examination of around 3 months*;
  • A maximum of 6 months for the Examination;
  • A further 3 months for a recommendation to be provided to the Secretary of State by the Planning Inspectorate; and
  • 3 months for the Secretary of State to make a decision.

* As the pre-examination stage does not have a formal timescale attached to it, each project will be different, but it does provide a useful starting point.

Read more about the NSIP process on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s role

The role of the local authorities as statutory consultees can be summarised in three ways:

  • Scrutinising the applicant’s NSIP application;
  • Offering technical advice as part of the consultation process; and
  • Ensuring that adequate public consultation is carried out.

When an application falls within Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire County Council becomes known as a ‘host authority’. The Host Authorities work together as far as possible to ensure full scrutiny of projects in our areas is undertaken. It is important to note that as the ‘host’ planning authorities, we are not the determining authorities, and do not grant or deny the DCO.

Any correspondence in relation to NSIPs needs to be directed to the applicant (details for which can be found on the relevant NSIP project page) in the first instance, and then the Planning Inspectorate.

Taking part in the NSIP process

Opportunities for members of the public to take part in the NSIP process and comment on applications are as follows:

  • Take part in pre-application consultations.
  • Register to take part in the Examination (Members of the public can register as interested parties once an application has been accepted for Examination by PINs, by submitting a relevant representation).
  • Make written submissions and respond to Examiner’s questions.
  • Attend hearings and site visits.
  • Check the PINs project website for updates or further consultations by the secretary of state that you may wish to respond to.

Please refer to the Planning Inspectorate website in the first instance for information on the process and how to get involved.