Developing North Falls
Nationally significant infrastructure project
As a large scale energy project, North Falls is classified as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). Developers intending to construct a NSIP must obtain ‘development consent’ under procedures governed by the Planning Act 2008. Where a development consent is granted, it is made in the form of a development consent order (DCO).
The agency responsible for operating the planning process for NSIPs is the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). PINS examines applications for development consent and will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will make the decision on whether to grant or to refuse development consent.
For North Falls this will be the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The National Infrastructure Planning process
The Planning Act 2008 process was introduced to streamline the decision-making for major infrastructure projects like North Falls, to make it fairer and faster for communities and applicants alike. To find out more about the process please visit the PINS website which gives a simple explanation of the stages of their process. We are currently in the pre-application stage of development.
The North Falls process
Now in development, North Falls is focussed on preparing our application for development consent.
Environmental impact assessment
The core of our current work is carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The EIA is a systematic approach to assessing the environmental, social and economic effects arising from our proposals. It will set out mitigation measures to reduce adverse impacts plus the results of further assessments with these mitigation measures applied.
The EIA provides a consistent approach to both the onshore and offshore development proposals.
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A key theme from this section was around the timeframe and stages of the planning process. To give some details on this: North Falls has completed its first informal consultation and there will be another in 2022, followed by a formal consultation in 2023, as well as ongoing liaison throughout. The project's planning application is due for submission to the Planning Inspectorate - which runs the development consent application process - around mid 2023. The decision on the planning application is anticipated in 2025/26 and if it is approved, construction would get underway soon after. Future consultations will be promoted in similar ways to this initial consultation although interested parties are encouraged to register their details for regular updates.
Consultation is a key element of the development process and will be crucial to the progress of the EIA. The project team will ensure that stakeholders are engaged in the development and have the opportunity to comment on the proposals at key decision making points.
The preparation and refinement of the North Falls proposals will be an iterative process. Those with comments or suggestions about the project can provide input throughout the development phase. However pre-application consultation periods, such as this, will be the main opportunity for stakeholders to review the plans, provide comments, submit feedback and have an influence on elements of the process or shape the project. At these defined consultation periods North Falls will ask for input related to specific elements on its proposals where stakeholders are will be able to offer valuable insights.
Preliminary environmental information report and environmental statement
The preliminary results of the EIA are set out in what is called a preliminary environmental information report (PEIR). This document will form the basis of a future statutory consultation on the North Falls proposals and acts as a status report on both the EIA process and on the progress of the preparation of the development consent application.
The PEIR is a technical document covering the full range of what has been assessed, its impacts and proposed mitigations. Feedback given on the PEIR will be used to produce the final document required as part of the development process, the North Falls Environmental Statement. This document will accompany the final application when it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.