A Scoping Opinion is the document that sets out the formal view of the Secretary of State (via the Planning Inspectorate) on the scope and level of detail of the information to be provided in an Environmental Statement (ES).
A Scoping Opinion Request allows an applicant to ask the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State, for their opinion on the scope and level of detail of the information to be provided in the Environmental Statement (ES). The ES is a document which identifies and assesses the likely significant environmental effects of the project across a range of topics, for example traffic, noise, air quality and flooding. It is a document which will accompany the Development Consent Order (DCO) Inspectorate in due course.
The Planning Inspectorate must consult a number of statutory bodies, including Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive amongst others, during the scoping process and provide the applicant with a Scoping Opinion within 42 days of the Scoping Opinion Request being submitted.
The Scoping Report is a document produced by the applicant which outlines, amongst other things, which environmental topics it is anticipated will be considered in the ES and the assessment methodologies proposed to be used. The Scoping Report forms the basis of the Scoping Opinion Request that is made to the Planning Inspectorate.
NSIPs are major infrastructure developments that undergo a consenting process that is different from normal planning permission due to their nature and size. Examples can include power stations, renewable energy projects, the construction or alteration of harbour facilities, new airports or major road projects.
The consenting process for these projects is overseen by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), an executive agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
There are a number of bodies that are statutory consultees for the proposed application – these are defined in the legislation which sets out how NSIP applications are to be prepared and include organisations such as the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Marine Management Organisation. In addition, the legislation requires applicants to undertake formal consultation with the local community.
The way we will consult local people living near the site of the proposed development will be set out in a document known as a Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC). This will include details of any events and other opportunities being provided to enable local people to comment on the proposals.
NSIP projects such as the OMSSD require consent in the form of a Development Consent Order or DCO. A DCO is a special type of approval for projects of national significance.
An application for a DCO is determined by the Secretary of State within whose area of responsibility the given project falls. In the case of the OMSSD project, the application will be determined by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Following a pre-application period within which the applicant is required to undertake certain tasks and activities – including necessary consultation – the application is submitted to PINS.
PINS will then appoint an Inspector or a Panel of Inspectors (known as the Examining Authority) to consider the application at what is known as an examination – which is very similar to a public inquiry. PINS will take care to involve all stakeholders and other interested parties throughout the examination process.
Once the application has been comprehensively examined – which can take up to six months – the Examining Authority will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State as to whether the DCO should be granted or refused.
You can visit the PINS website to find out more information about the DCO process and download the Planning Act 2008 (various regulations which explain the procedures to be followed throughout the application process). This website also includes helpful guidance notes.
As part of the application, it will be necessary for us to undertake a comprehensive environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the proposed development. This assessment will be reported in an Environmental Statement (ES).
So far, we have carried out a number of surveys to identify any wildlife and habitats that might be affected by the project and to ensure that we can protect any species that might be affected by the project. A number of other background surveys and studies are underway.
We will, in due course, be asking PINS for their formal view on the proposed scope and content of our assessment, which will cover a wide variety of topics including ecology, noise, air quality, traffic, ground contamination, heritage, flooding, lighting and landscape.
Throughout the assessment process, we will work with Castle Point Borough Council and a range of other statutory bodies including Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Marine Management Organisation to ensure that the assessment covers all relevant matters and that opportunities to mitigate or minimise potential impacts are appropriately considered.
In the future, for the purposes of consultation, we will be publishing a document known as a Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR), which will form the basis of our eventual ES. This is an important part of the application process and everyone will be invited to comment on the contents of the Report.
Once those comments and representations have been taken fully into account, the application documentation will be finalised and the application will be submitted to PINS.
The Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC) is a document that sets out how we propose to consult with the local community about the OMSSD project. The SoCC will not include details of the project or its impacts but it outlines how and when formal public consultation on the project will take place.
We are required to consult relevant local authorities on what should be included in the SoCC and to take into account any comments they make, before producing the final SoCC document. In the case of the OMSSD project, the relevant local authorities are Castle Point Borough Council and Essex County Council.
Having agreed the SoCC with these local authorities, we must publish an advert in a local newspaper explaining how the public can view the final SoCC document. We are then required to carry out formal statutory consultation with the local community in line with the details in the SoCC. This forms part of the statutory process in the preparation of the Development Consent Order (DCO) application before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.
Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, consultation activity and engagement with communities has had to adapt to ensure the process is safe for participants but remains effective and continues to be inclusive. Any consultation activity that takes place on the OMSSD project will therefore need to comply with relevant government guidance in respect of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) is a document setting out preliminary information relating to the project and its impacts, to help the local community and consultees to develop an informed view of the likely significant environmental effects of the project and provide comments as part of the formal consultation process.
The OMSSD PEIR will include detailed information about the project and initial environmental assessments covering a range of topics relevant to the OMSSD project.
The information provided in the PEIR is preliminary, and therefore reflects the design of the project and understanding of potential environmental effects at the time of the PEIR’s preparation. As part of the formal Statutory Consultation, there is an opportunity for the local community and consultees to comment on the information in the PEIR. All comments that are made will be considered and if necessary, amendments to the project will be made.
The PEIR and the comments received as part of the formal Statutory Consultation will inform the preparation of the OMSSD Environmental Statement, which will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate as part of the DCO application.
You can visit the Planning Inspectorate’s website for information about the Development Consent Order process: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/.