Greg Clark, the secretary of Leveling Up, revealed yesterday that ministers will have the option of accelerating job creation projects in the UK, which are often delayed.
It comes after the government pledged to try to halve the time it takes to get major projects that are crucial to the country’s energy, water and transport approved.
Secretaries of State will be able to set shorter deadlines for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) which may include new offshore wind farms or new roads.
A senior minister may decide to classify a project, such as a new nuclear power plant, as an NSIP, taking it out of locally-led planning processes.
Through new amendments to the Leveling Bill, it would give ministers the power to shorten the length of time new projects must be approved, as well as alter plans once they have been clarified.
Small changes to projects once work has started can take up to 16 months, which is considered too slow.
In the government’s energy security strategy, announced last month, it pledged to change a series of measures to reduce the time needed to approve a new offshore wind farm from four years to just one.
“Particularly in times of high inflation, things need to be done faster or the costs of major infrastructure projects will rise,” Clark said.
“These changes will help deliver new infrastructure more quickly, speeding up the planning process that often happens too slowly.”
The government said it was trying to move away from lengthy planning processes which saw projects such as the Sizewell B nuclear power station take 7 years to be approved.
Along with the announcement, the upgrade secretary said 10 areas impacted by major infrastructure projects have received funding to explore ways councils and local areas can fast-track NSIP approvals.
Included in these are Selby District Council and North Yorkshire County Council. They have been awarded £52,000 to research ways to speed up biodiversity and environmental health assessments of the various renewable energy projects in the region, such as Drax Power Station.
Additionally, Eden District Council and Cumbria County Council will each receive £60,000 in response to the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project, which is expected to convert single carriageway sections of the road to dual carriageway.
It is understood that the new powers given to ministers to fast-track projects like these will only apply to new NSIPs.
This month’s drought has seen urgent calls for the UK to increase its supply of reservoirs to avoid further pressure on water supplies and subsequent garden hose bans, an analysis of the National Infrastructure Commission suggesting nearly 30 new reservoirs are needed to protect the country’s water systems. .
Pressures on the country’s energy security revealed by the war in Ukraine led ministers to greenlight new and existing gas, oil, nuclear, wind and solar projects.
The focus on diversifying the UK’s energy resources is unlikely to have an effect on next winter’s cost of living crisis, but could protect the UK against future energy disasters.