On 14th September 2023, HMC Principal Consultant Dr. Kathryn Fradera participated in the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum, and Westminster Social Policy Forum Keynote seminar on the next steps for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). In this blog, Kathryn shares her reflections and insights from the seminar and its implications for offshore development and the marine environment.
Balancing Conflicting Demands and Environmental Goals
The seminar’s opening remarks by Lord Berkeley raised a fundamental question: Can we strike a balance between our growing need for housing, energy, and transportation infrastructure and our desire for a greener environment? This question underpinned discussions throughout the event, highlighting the challenge of balancing conflicting demands and environmental preservation. Whether related to housing, energy, transport, or any other kind of development, onshore or offshore, the question remains the same: How do we balance conflicting demands, desires and environmental worldviews? As someone who has worked in offshore consenting for over a decade, this question is as crucial to consider now as it has been during all my time working in offshore wind.
Evolution of NSIPs
NSIPs have evolved over time, moving beyond neatly categorised sectors. Now, we encounter cross-sectoral projects that require considerations from multiple angles. The consequence of this is that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) may have to report to multiple Secretaries of State and reply on more than one National Policy Statement. While this evolution in process can certainly promise innovation, it also adds complexity to an already intricate process.
It’s reassuring to hear that the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) is ready to tackle these changes. PINS is committed to continuous improvement and is piloting new approaches, such as a “Principal Areas of Disagreement Summary” to replace the existing Statement of Common Ground. Their aim is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the NSIP process without imposing undue burdens on project promoters. Rather, the emphasis should be on finding ways of using the same core information for multiple purposes (e.g. consenting, engineering, financing.)
Back to Basics
Throughout the seminar, there was a consensus on the need for a “back to basics” review of NSIP consenting. The goal is to simplify where possible, innovate when necessary, and ensure meaningful stakeholder engagement. Achieving these objectives will be critical in making the NSIP system work better for everyone involved. The intention remains to make large infrastructure projects easier to examine at a national level whilst providing opportunities for local stakeholders to meaningfully engage.
In summary, the seminar shed light on the challenges and opportunities within NSIPs. While the system isn’t broken, it requires adjustments to accommodate the changing development landscape. As we navigate this complex terrain, a clear policy direction and defined strategic goals will be essential to ensure the success of NSIPs.
HMC, with its extensive experience in offshore development and marine consulting, stands at the forefront of addressing these challenges. Our commitment to innovation, stakeholder engagement, and strategic thinking aligns perfectly with the goals of NSIP reform. Together, we can shape a more efficient and sustainable future for infrastructure development.
The seminar’s discussions serve as a reminder that collaboration and innovation are key to addressing the pressures and complexities faced by those involved in NSIPs. It’s a journey towards a more efficient and sustainable future for infrastructure development, and HMC is proud to be a part of it.