IEMA has today responded to the Government’s consultation on the details of the operational reforms it is looking to make to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure (NSIP) consenting process as put forward in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Reform Action Plan (February 2023). In this blog, Rufus Howard, IEMA’s Policy and Engagement Lead for impact assessment, discusses the key elements of the Institute’s response.

IEMA is well placed to comment on the consultation as our members often lead the environmental and sustainability-related inputs and assessments to NSIPs. In addition, IEMA and its members have been closely engaged with planning reforms since 2020 including responding to consultations covering the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) and Environmental Outcomes Reports (EOR).

In our consultation response, IEMA welcomes many aspects of the proposals for operational reforms to the NSIP consenting process. IEMA recognises that the demands of the system are changing, and the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy (2020) and British Energy Security Strategy (2022) both called for a need to make the infrastructure consenting process better, faster, and greener.

IEMA understands that the current proposals are aimed at improving the flexibility and resilience of the system and allowing the increasing number of infrastructure project proposals to go through the consent process quicker than before. IEMA welcomes proposals to improve and strengthen the consultation and engagement with communities and councils, to put them at the heart of decision-making processes. IEMA is also supportive of reforms that aim to make the whole process more transparent and easier for all stakeholders to navigate and, crucially from our point of view, ensure that consultation and environmental requirements are ‘proportionate, and clearly understood’.

IEMA specifically welcomes and supports the following key elements of the proposals:

  • Improving the quality of public participation and stakeholder engagement. IEMA views this as an area in clear need of improvement and welcomes investment in producing better guidance and good practice standards and requirements.
  • The use of early adopters feedback and pilot projects to inform policy and regulation. This is essential for ground truthing proposed changes to check that the outcomes work as intended, it is essential that an evidence-led approach is adopted to any reforms. IEMA would welcome a similar pilot system and evidence-based approach to the environmental assessment reforms under EOR and encourages DLUHC to reconsider its proposals and increase its engagement with the professional bodies on these reforms.
  • Strengthening public sector capacity and resources. IEMA welcomes acknowledgement of capacity and competency constraints within the public sector. IEMA recommends that a long-term and systematic approach is taken to improve capacity and competency through investment in staffing, recruitment, training, guidance, and salary benchmarking to ensure adequate provision of competent experts.
  • Updating and improving guidance. Investing in updated and improved infrastructure planning guidance will help raise standards, consistency and quality of applications.
  • Adopting digital innovation. IEMA has long championed better use of digital and data improvements.

You can read our full NSIP Operational Reforms consultation response here.

In preparing this consultation response we have considered IEMA’s previous advice, submissions, consultation responses and positions on EIA and SEA (the IEMA recommendations) against the latest information provided within this NSIP consultation. You can also access all of our previous consultation responses here.

For IEMA members who wish to get involved in the IEMA Impact Assessment Network and stay abreast of planning reforms please log in to IEMAs website and opt in to communications from the Impact Assessment Network under your privacy preferences

Photo of Rufus howard
Rufus Howard

Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA, IEMA

Dr Howard is the policy and engagement lead for Impact Assessment at IEMA and a leading professional in EIA, with two decades of international experience across renewable energy and major infrastructure.


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