Updated Sep 27, 2023

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RTPI says NSIP reforms must be more than procedural

Despite the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) welcoming many of the reforms proposed by the government to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP), they have called on ministers to go beyond procedural reforms to "ensure that infrastructure can deliver a net-zero future whilst driving economic growth".

In its response to the government's consultation on reforms, which included establishing a fast-track route to consent to potentially halve the time it takes for some projects to be determining and bolstering resources across the system, the RTPI said the proposals have the ability to speed up te NSIP consenting process.

The RTPI also outlined that they could improve the pre-application and post-consent stages, as well as put funding arrangements for the Planning Inspectorate, local authorities, and statutory consultees on a more stable footing.

However, the RTPI explained that the government's future strategy for the NSIP regime needs to do more than "simply identifying what infrastructure is required".

"It will need to provide significant spatial guidance on where infrastructure should be built and connected in order to establish a more comprehensive understanding of our built environment and rapidly and effectively achieve net zero".

The RTPI thinks that new national policy statements should be updated at least every five years, with national policy statements and the National Infrastructure Strategy providing a clear spatial planning framework for infrastructure.

It also believes that resourcing the Planning Inspectorate must become a greater focus of the government's capacity and capability strategy for planning, and that the government should explore options for better participatory approaches to community engagement to create a more level playing field between applicants and communities, as well as reduce the delays and costs associated with local opposition.

Victoria Hills, chief executive of the RTPI, said: "These proposed reforms are a step in the right direction for our nation's infrastructure, but must go further if they are to deliver a co-ordinated spatial planning framework, boosting the economy and meet government's net-zero ambitions".

"Ultimately, their success will depend on the ability to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of experienced planners to deliver these reforms. Planning officers are the hardest occupation for local authorities to recruit and retain, with public sector resourcing becoming a chronic concern among planners. If we're going to ensure proposed reforms deliver for the country, we will need sufficient resources to enact them".

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