Published: Thursday, 4th June 2015
The Welsh Government has started consulting on how its proposed new regime for Developments of National Significance (DNS) will work.
In essence this is a Welsh version of the Planning Act 2008 regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).
The administration’s planning bill introduces the concept and a consultation paper just published is canvassing views on thresholds for proposed schemes, how secondary consents may be submitted for consideration and determined alongside an application for DNS and how pre-application notification, advice and consultation will be undertaken.
Under the proposed new regime Welsh ministers will determine proposals at or above a specific threshold for various categories of infrastructure development, many of which are energy- based.
Listed are gas storage and terminal projects, new airports, new rail links, rail freight interchanges, new dams and reservoirs, major new pipelines, wastewater treatment plants, hazardous waste facilities, water transfer schemes and power plants.
Currently the proposal covers plants of between 25 and 50 megawatts in capacity. In future this threshold will increase to 350 megawatts, once other legislation is passed.
Angus Walker, Bircham Dyson Bell’s infrastructure guru pointed out: “Although the DNS system mirrors the Planning Act regime, note that it is still technically a grant of planning permission, whereas development consent under the Planning Act 2008 is different to and instead of planning permission.
“This means that it has to work within the conventional town and country planning regime rather than start from scratch, so can never be as comprehensive as the 2008 Act.
“It is intended to be a one-stop shop, as far as possible, and a list of 15 ‘secondary consents’ that can be applied for at the same time as the main DNS consent is proposed.
“Again, these consents cannot legally be dispensed with, so the regime does what it can to make it appear to be a single process from the outside. Compulsory purchase is in the list but only for the purposes of regeneration, which may be a problem.”