Freshwater is sponsoring next month’s 4th Annual Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) Forum in London. Ahead of the two-day conference, four of the speakers have offered some top tips about the application process to the event’s organisers, Waterfront Conference Company. Here’s what they had to say…
Ian Fletcher, planning strategy manager at Tideway
“The key advice I would give to promoters starting the NSIP process is to be realistic in your initial assumptions:
1. Be realistic in setting your programme - don’t assume that you can proceed direct from consultation to submission; you will have to change things in response to consultation.
2. Be realistic in your staffing. When you get hundreds of written questions from the Examining Authority, will you have enough people available to draft responses?
3. Be realistic in setting your budgets. Don’t forget key national newspaper advertisements, booking venues, legal costs, consultants, printing, PINS fees and your staff.”
Alex Herbert, head of consents at Tidal Lagoon Power
“The DCO process is long and demanding with identifiable peaks and few troughs. On Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay we worked particularly hard during statutory consultation, then for four to six months in the run-up to submission, and for the first three months of examination. I expect other projects follow a similar pattern.
“Good resource planning is critical to maintain progress and to avoid burn-out, ensuring you have the right expertise at the right times and that everyone gets a break. Try not to get swept up in the momentum of the process: step back, plan, and make sure you get some rest when you can.”
Jon Barnard, NDR/NATS manager at Norfolk County Council
“The team membership needs to be a near equal balance of technical / specialists verses project management / facilitation. This needs to be the case from putting the application together including consultation through to examination and, all being well, mobilisation and discharge of conditions.
“There is a natural tendency to overload projects with technical and specialist advisors, this is in response to a fear of the unknown of the NSIP process and its demands. The reality is, all work is carried out up front in the application stage with a lot of strands to pull together all at once with programme and budget in mind.
“Delivering a successful project is about having the right people in the right positions. Having a project / programme manager and support who just focuses on delivering the respective stage and not getting bogged down in design and planning detail is invaluable. It would not be cost effective to pay a Principal Planner to be formatting and printing documents but in the desperation in pulling together the application this is an easy trap to fall into. By ensuring the team membership has the correct make up, defined roles and responsibilities, you will have a better chance of delivering the programme to both timescales, budget with more resilience and career development opportunities.”
Scottish Power Renewables
“An important piece of advice would be to invest time in building stakeholder relationships and work closely with consultees throughout the NSIP process.
“This should start right at the beginning of the process where a programme and resource plan should be discussed and agreed with key statutory consultees. Regular reviews of programme and resourcing, for example at monthly meetings with key statutory stakeholders, can help ensure project resource needs are met and specialist team inputs for both project and consultee staff agreed in advance. Regular meetings can also be used to discuss charging for advice, any strategic issues or policy guidance and allow the project team to explain commercial constraints to development and implications for the project design.
“Consultation should be meaningful and applicants should be clear about what they are consulting on and why. Applicants should consider asking questions in the consultation material to guide consultees to key areas of focus. Consultee responses should be recorded and then carefully considered, with the applicant clearly setting out the project response to the issues raised by consultees. Statements of Common Ground should be drafted early in the process and should follow on from pre-application discussions and, where possible, reach agreement prior to examination.
“Investing time pre-application and pre-examination can help address any unresolved issues that might be raised in examination where there is less time and more pressure.”
You can hear from all of these speakers, and meet representatives from Freshwater, at the 4th Annual Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Forum 2016, on 9-10 February in London. Find out more and register here.