On 1 April 2012, under the Localism Act 2011, the Planning Inspectorate became the agency responsible for operating the planning process for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).
NSIPs are usually large scale developments such as new harbours, power generating stations (including wind farms), and electricity transmission lines, which require a type of consent known as ‘development consent’ under procedures governed by the Planning Act 2008 (and amended by the Localism Act 2011).
The 2008 Act sets out thresholds above which certain types of infrastructure development are considered to be nationally significant and require development consent.
In England, the Planning Inspectorate examines applications for development consent from the energy, transport, waste, waste water and water sectors. In Wales, it examines applications for energy and harbour development, subject to detailed provisions in the Act; other matters are for Welsh Ministers.
Any developer wishing to construct an NSIP must first apply for consent to do so. For such projects, the Planning Inspectorate examines the application and will make a recommendation to the relevant Secretary of State, who will make the decision on whether to grant or to refuse development consent.
Previously NSIPs were dealt with by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Under the Localism Act 2011, the IPC was abolished on 1 April 2012. Its functions transferred to the Planning Inspectorate on that date and are now delivered by its National Infrastructure Directorate.