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£368k boost for County planners

13 December 2023

County planners have received a boost of £368,000 to help respond to proposals for major infrastructure in Cambridgeshire, following successful bids for funding from central government.

The monies will help support Cambridgeshire County Council with the administration of Development Consent Orders (DCO) for schemes like East West Rail, the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet upgrade and Fenland Reservoir, as well as others known as Nationally Important Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

The funding award comes following representations from the County Council to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) highlighting the importance of supporting local authorities, as Councils like Cambridgeshire face increasing numbers of these complex schemes, which are put forward by both developers and central government.

Funding was allocated from the DLUHC’s Innovation and Capacity Fund, which aims to support local authorities to engage with major infrastructure processes. £268,000 has been assigned to bring in extra technical and specialist resource to support transport specific Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, including East West Rail over this financial year. A further £100,000 – the maximum available – was awarded up to 2025 for work across all these types of projects. This is a substantial amount of the total £2.7 million designated by the Department across 22 projects and 37 local authorities.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) are schemes 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. Instead of applying to the local authority for Planning Permission, the developer must apply to the Planning Inspectorate for a Development Consent Order. The NSIP process is defined through the Planning Act 2008.

When an application is proposed in Cambridgeshire, by law the County Council becomes a ‘host authority’. This means it is required by government to play a key role working with others including the relevant District Council scrutinising the application.

The involvement of local Councils helps to ensure local issues are considered and understood, and that it is possible for projects to be delivered in their unique context. The Council is also often responsible for monitoring and enforcing Development Consent Order requirements and provisions, as well as any relevant community obligations. These obligations can include funding for walking and cycling routes and local projects. The Council has been working to develop nationally-recognised best practice standards, as officers respond to NSIP developments.

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council commented: “I’m pleased to see that the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has recognised, through this substantial funding award, some of the immediate impact of the increasing number of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects being proposed in our area – and the crucial role the County plays in reviewing and holding developers to account.

“Cambridgeshire – and particularly Cambridge – continues to grow at a fast pace but this economic growth places additional financial burdens on local councils, as we carry out our legal duties. This funding contributes to meeting some of the need for more planning resources and supports the important work our planners do to protect the interests of our local communities.”