On 16 May 2024 PINS published its much-awaited new Pre-application Prospectus for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

The publication of the Prospectus represents a very significant step in the ongoing reform of the NSIP process. It contains fundamental updates and changes to the pre-application process that all promoters need to be aware of. Given its importance the Prospectus is well worth reading in full. We have not attempted to summarise it in detail here, but picking out a few of the most significant parts:

  • The Prospectus introduces the three new tiers of pre-application service: basic, standard and enhanced. The tiers reflect different levels of service that applicants may receive from PINS ahead of submitting an application. The costs are confirmed at £62,350 per year for the basic service; £126,050 per year for the standard service; and £208,850 for the enhanced service. Any applicants seeking to utilise the fast-track procedure will be required to utilise the enhanced service. There is much to say about each tier, but the Prospectus anticipates that most projects will utilise the standard service, with the basic service potentially suiting very experienced applicants promoting low-complexity projects, and the enhanced service suiting applicants seeking to take advantage of the fast-track process and/or promoting novel or very complex projects where issues are numerous and/or unusual.
  • Applicants will confirm their requested choice of service tier during an Inception Meeting with PINS and present their proposed programme for pre-application activities in a Programme Document. The Programme Document is referred to quite extensively throughout the new Prospectus. It is expected that prior to the Inception Meeting, applicants will have interacted with relevant statutory bodies and local authorities to explore and where possible agree the scope of services required to support the requested service tier and the proposed programme of pre-application activities.
  • The tier will be agreed between the applicant and PINS at, or within a maximum of 28 days following, the Inception Meeting.
  • The Prospectus identifies five primary service features that all applicants are expected to engage regardless of the choice of tier. These are the Programme Document; an Issues Tracker culminating in a Potential Main Issues for the Examination document; an Advice Log; the Adequacy of Consultation Milestone (see below) and demonstrating regard to advice (via the Consultation Report).
  • The Adequacy of Consultation Milestone (‘AoCM’ – another acronym we will all need to become familiar with!) is a pre-application step by which, in essence, applicants will make a written submission to PINS towards the end of the pre-application stage which sets out the consultation undertaken to date, confirms the approaches set out in the Statement of Community Consultation, and summarises the consultation responses and the way in which they are shaping the application. This may in practice effectively take the form of a draft Consultation Report. The AoCM will be established in the applicant’s Programme Document.

In terms of transitional arrangements, PINS intends to carry out an expression of interest exercise with all projects currently at the pre-application stage to establish their preference of tier service. Details will be sent to applicants directly. All projects should expect to be confirmed within a service tier before the end of August 2024. Applicants are encouraged to have regard to the likely levels of support required from other third-party organisations and whether that level of support has already been secured, or is otherwise realistically achievable for the desired tier.

The new Prospectus sits alongside a suite of updated advice and guidance published on 30 April 2024. This includes guidance on the pre-application stage for NSIPs, guidance on the fast-track process and guidance on the acceptance and pre-examination stages. Other existing but ageing guidance is expected to be updated before the end of 2024.

If you would like to discuss how these changes to the NSIP process may affect your project, please contact Katherine Evans or John Arthur.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at May 2024. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

Date published

21 May 2024

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