DCLG paper updates developers on residential bolt-ons to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

The government has confirmed it expects 500 new homes to be the upper limit for residential developments included with “fast track” planning consents sought for major infrastructure projects.

From April 6, developers of schemes classified as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects under the Planning Act 2008 will be able to seek consent for new permanent housing as part of the application process.

NSIP schemes include new harbours, major roads, railways, power stations and airports and are processed by the Planning Inspectorate, rather than local authorities, to provide certainty for developers over timescales and expected documentation.

While temporary housing for construction workers can be delivered as part of NSIP schemes, permanent residential development was excluded from consideration until an amendment clause in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

From next month, developers of major infrastructure schemes in England will be allowed to seek permission for new permanent housing that is linked by “functional need” to the main project – such as homes for power-station workers, or housing linked by “geographical proximity” –  such as homes next to a station.

Guidance published by the Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday confirmed that 500 homes was considered to be the maximum number of permanent dwellings permissible under an NSIP application, with secretary-of-state approval “very unlikely” for larger schemes that relate to a single infrastructure project.

However, it also pointed to the potential for the delivery of larger-scale residential development for construction-phase workers, if it was “subsequently converted so that the number of permanent dwellings after any conversion is 500 or less”.

In terms of location the guidance suggests that housing built on the basis of proximity to an NSIP scheme could be up to one mile away from it, while homes constructed for the “functional need” category could be further afield, possibly in the nearest town to a new facility.

DCLG stressed that requests for housing consents connected to NSIPs would be subject to the same kind of restrictions that National Planning Policy dictated if Green Belt land, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, or designated heritage assets were involved.

NSIP housing proposals that are based on geographic proximity to a project will also be subject to affordable housing requirements.

The NSIP process requires project developers to conduct extensive pre-application work, but once the Planning Inspectorate has accepted an application a strictly time-limited process begins that starts with a three-month pre-examination process and an examination of up to six months.

After that, the relevant secretary of state has three months to decide on whether consent can be granted, based on the Planning Inspectorate’s recommendations. A total of 65 NSIP projects have been decided to date.