Advice Note Six: Preparation and submission of application documents

The Planning Inspectorate and Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

The planning process for dealing with proposals for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) was established by the Planning Act 2008 (the PA2008). The PA2008 process, involves an examination of major proposals which exceed the thresholds set out in sections 15-30 of the PA2008 relating to energy, transport, water, waste and waste water, and business and commercial. Fundamentally, the PA2008 process places emphasis on opportunities for people to have their say before a decision is made by the relevant Secretary of State. The Planning Inspectorate carries out certain functions related to national infrastructure planning on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Status of this Advice Note

Experience to date has shown that Applicants and others welcome detailed advice on a number of issues relevant to the PA2008 process. This Advice Note forms part of a suite of such advice provided by the Planning Inspectorate. It has no statutory status. This version of this Advice Note supersedes all previous versions This Advice Note refers to other advice notes

Jump to section:

  1. Introduction
  2. Standard application form
  3. Copies of the application
  4. Order of application documents
  5. Organisation of electronic information and file indexing
  6. Size of documents and summaries
  7. Referencing and heading of plans, documents and photographs
  8. Format of documents
  9. The draft Development Consent Order
  10. The environmental statement
  11. Habitats Regulations Assessment
  12. Scale of plans and drawings
  13. Appendices
  14. Data protection and privacy
  15. Copyright and intellectual property
  16. Applications in Wales
  17. Application acceptance checklist
  18. GIS shapefile
  19. Fees, Payments, Timings and Method
  20. What happens next?

1. Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this Advice Note is to provide detailed advice on how application documents should be prepared, organised and submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. Applications that are poorly organised and presented are at greater risk of not being accepted for examination.

1.2 Applicants should also refer to the Government Guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) now Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and other relevant Advice Notes published by the Planning Inspectorate, all of which are available on the National Infrastructure Planning website Advice notes page.

1.3 Applicants are strongly encouraged to hold pre-application discussions with the Planning Inspectorate about how their application information should be prepared and submitted well in advance of formal submission. The Planning Inspectorate’s pre-application service for Applicants ‘Prospectus for Applicants’ is available on the National Infrastructure Planning website Prospectus for Applicants page.

1.4 Once an application has been submitted and accepted, the opportunity for Applicants to submit any additional or amended information will be constrained within examination procedures.

1.5 Importantly, the Examining Authority will be unable to accept post-submission changes to applications where those changes would result in a ‘materially different scheme’. Therefore, Applicants need to ensure that their proposals are sufficiently developed and consulted upon prior to formal submission to the Planning Inspectorate, taking full account of relevant legislation and guidance.

2. Standard application form

2.1 The ‘development consent application form’ is a prescribed form.

2.2 The form includes information to support with its completion. It should be completed in full and submitted with the application using the electronic template provided.

2.3 Detailed Government Guidance has been published to accompany the prescribed form. The Government Guidance refers specifically to each section of the development consent application form and can be viewed as ‘help text’ on each section of the electronic form. It is also available as a standalone document via the National Infrastructure Planning website.

3. Copies of the application

3.1 The Planning Inspectorate is committed to the UK Government’s ‘digital by default’ approach set out in the Civil Service Reform Plan. The examination of nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) under the Planning Act 2008 has since its inception been a mostly electronic process. The Planning Inspectorate has (until now) requested one or more full printed copies of the documents comprising the Applicant’s application at the point of its submission. However, following a trialled alternative approach, and having had regard to the relevant requirements and feedback from consultees, the Planning Inspectorate no longer requires Applicants to submit their application documents in printed copy at the point of submission. The Planning Inspectorate would prefer electronic applications to be provided on a Universal Serial Bus (USB) storage device. Although the Planning Inspectorate can accept Compact Disc (CD) or Electronic Versatile Disc (DVD) as a form of electronic application it is not our preference to do so.

3.2 The Planning Inspectorate considers there to be considerable benefits from making a electronic only application. However, Applicants should be aware that if they do wish to submit a printed copy application, the Planning Inspectorate continues to accept documents in this format. If the Applicant chooses to submit printed copies, the Planning Inspectorate will not accept an application as being complete until both the electronic and full set of printed copy documents have been successfully received.

3.3 Applicants should agree their proposed approach to making an application, before submission, with the Inspectorate. The agreement will determine the number of electronic device copies and, if desired, number of full sets of printed copies that they intend to submit.

3.4 If a electronic only application is accepted for examination, the Planning Inspectorate considers it likely that the Examining Authority will still require elements of the application to be provided in printed copy (e.g. works plans and photomontages) before examination. The number of printed copy documents requested may depend on the number of persons appointed as the Examining Authority, or the number of assessors or legal advisors appointed to the case. The Examining Authority may request that the Applicant provides printed copies of the entire application or copies of individual documents at any point throughout the pre-examination and examination
stages.


3.5 Completed applications (either printed or via electronic devices) should be made to the following address, within the working hours of 9am – 5pm, Mondays to Fridays (excluding UK public holidays): The Planning Inspectorate, National Infrastructure Planning, Temple Quay House, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN. Applications received after 5pm will be treated as if they were received on the following working day.


3.6 Any printed copies of the application should be provided as an individual package with the documents organised in the order set out in Table 1 of this Advice Note. It is essential that the electronic copies are provided in accordance with the procedure set out in this Advice Note to ensure consistency and compatibility with the Planning Inspectorate’s electronic system.

4. Order of application documents

4.1 The order, indexing and filing of submitted application documents is important to ensure that large volumes of application information can be easily navigated and retrieved.

4.2 An index and organisational structure for documents is set out in Table 1 to this Advice Note. Advice on preparing the technical index is also provided in the Appendix 1 to this Advice Note (PDF, 54kb). The structure advocated in this advice should be applied to both electronic and printed copy versions of the application. If any prescribed document type is included within another document, please make clear in which document it is located; including the relevant reference, page, paragraph, and/or appendix numbers.

5. Organisation of electronic information and file indexing

5.1 The electronic application should be prepared in accordance with the advice set out in Table 1 of this Advice Note. This will ensure compatibility with the Planning Inspectorate’s electronic filing system. This preparation enables an efficient upload onto the Planning Inspectorate’s systems and the National Infrastructure Planning website.

5.2 Appendix 2 of this Advice Note (XLSX, 73 KB) provides a structured electronic application index for arranging the application documents. The application index should identify all documents submitted with the application and critically should provide a plain English description of the information comprised within each document. All of the information provided in the electronic index will be vital to both the quantitative and qualitative check of the submission and the navigation of published application documentation on the National Infrastructure Planning website.

5.3 A copy of this index will also serve as a reference document. Therefore, if a printed copy application is made the application should be organised in the same order as the electronic version.

6. Size of documents and summaries

6.1 The documents for each application will vary greatly in volume depending on the complexity of the Proposed Development and the particular issues arising. Some documents, such as application forms, are only a few pages, whilst others, such as the environmental statement (ES), are likely to comprise many pages.

6.2 Applicants are encouraged to think carefully about the size of documents submitted. Duplication and superfluous content should be avoided where possible whilst having regard to relevant legislation, case law and guidance. Each document submitted with the application that exceeds 1,500 words should include a summary of the key issues contained within it. A summary should be no longer than 1,500 words; or 10% of the original document size.

6.3 Summaries should clearly and accurately highlight the main points and direct the reader to the evidence on which they are based. They should not introduce any new or different information to that which is included in the main document or go beyond the scope of the text they summarise. Good summaries of complex information will help make the salient points clearer to a broad readership.

6.4 Electronic application documents will be uploaded to the National Infrastructure Planning website and should therefore be optimised for web viewing and should ideally not exceed 50MB per document.

7. Referencing and heading of plans, documents and photographs

7.1 File referencing for each plan or document submitted with the application should include:

  • the Proposed Development name;
  • a document or plan title;
  • a unique plan or document reference number;
  • the appropriate Regulation 5(2)3 paragraph number to which the document relates;
  • the date of production of the plan or document; and
  • a chronological note of any revisions made to the plan or document including the revised plan or document number.

7.2 Any photographs should be correctly labelled, annotated and dated. The location at which photographs have been taken should be identified on a map/plan. Specifications of the camera and type of lens used must also be provided. Applications should not include photographs that could be used to identify a person who has not consented to their image being published. Such images will not be considered as part of an application and will be returned to the Applicant.

7.3 The Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009

8. Format of documents

8.1 In preparing application documents, Applicants should follow the advice in this Advice Note to ensure consistency in the way that applications are presented. This will aid the identification and navigation of material and will be of benefit to participants in the process:

  • Application documents must not include hyperlinks to documents/evidence outside of the application documents eg technical reports or guidance hosted on an applicant’s or third party’s website. The Examining Authority, Interested Parties and the Secretary of State cannot rely on documents/evidence that the Inspectorate cannot directly control in respect of availability and content (including from a UK GDPR perspective). Applicant’s should endeavour to establish processes that completely avoid the use of hyperlinks when preparing application documents for submission. Any hyperlinks of this type will be redacted from application documents by the Inspectorate prior to publication.

9. The draft Development Consent Order

9.1 If the draft development consent order (DCO), as is usually the case, includes ‘legislation provisions’ that eg apply, amend or exclude other statutory provisions, The DCO must be made in the form of a validated Statutory Instrument (SI). The SI template is publicly available on the UK Government website. Applicants will need to obtain access for DCO drafting purposes to the online SI template and associated validation system. Applicants should request access to the SI template.

9.2 Further advice on DCO drafting and formatting is available in the Planning Inspectorate’s Advice Note Fifteen.

10. The environmental statement

10.1 The Planning Inspectorate encourages the submission of ES’s that include information relevant to ensure compliance with the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017, but which are proportionate to the characteristics of the Proposed Development and the sensitivity of the receiving environment. It is nevertheless appreciated that ESs for NSIPs will in many instances be large documents comprising several volumes, chapters, tables, figures, annexes and appendices. It will assist the processing of NSIP applications, therefore, if ES’s are prepared in accordance with advice provided in the Annex to Advice Note seven. Applicants should also ensure that that electronic ES applications include the following:

  • The electronic contents document should provide hyperlinks to the chapters, tables, figures, annexes, and appendices listed within it.
  • Electronic versions of the ES chapters, tables, figures, annexes, and appendices should be named so that their subject matter can be determined from the title without having to open the document.
  • The electronic version of the ES should be provided in a format which will allow the Planning Inspectorate to copy and paste from it ie not password protected.
  • Effective cross-referencing should reduce the need for repetition in ESs, leading to a more proportionate presentation of issues. Further advice on this issue is contained in Government Guidance, available on the National Infrastructure Planning website.

10.2 Applicants should check carefully before they submit their documents that the description of the Proposed Development is consistent across documents for example that the description in the ES and any other relevant reports is the same, for example Habitats Regulations Reports.

10.3 Whilst most of the application documents are required to be made publicly accessible and will be published on the National Infrastructure Planning website, there are some circumstances where it will be appropriate for information to be kept confidential. In particular, this may relate to information about the presence and locations of rare or sensitive species where disturbance, damage, persecution or commercial exploitation may result from publication of the information. Advice relating to the inclusion of confidential information within ES’s is available in the Annex to Advice Note Seven.

10.4 Applicants should note that surveys and background data which are referenced within the ES or Habitats Regulations Report should be appended or annexed to the respective document or be published elsewhere. If surveys and data that are relied upon are not provided, or published, then the Applicant may be asked to provide them.

11. Habitats Regulations Assessment

11.1 The Habitats Regulations require that the competent authority (in this case the relevant Secretary of State) before authorising a project likely to have a significant effect on a European site ‘must make an appropriate assessment of the implications for that site in view of that site’s conservation objectives’. Anyone applying for a DCO must provide the competent authority with such information as may reasonably be required ‘for the purposes of the assessment’ or ‘to enable them to determine whether an appropriate assessment is required’. Applicants are advised to refer to the Planning Inspectorate’s Advice Note Ten: Habitats Regulations Assessment for further details of information which should be submitted with a DCO application in this respect.

11.2 The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017) will apply beyond UK territorial waters (12 nautical miles). These Regulations are relevant when an application is submitted for an energy project in a renewable energy zone (except any part in relation to which the Scottish Ministers have functions). For ease of expression, both sets of regulations are covered by the term “Habitats Regulations” in this Advice Note.

12. Scale of plans and drawings

12.1 Any plans, drawings or cross sections provided in the application should be consistent with the requirements set out in The Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009 ie no larger than A0 size, showing the direction of North and for onshore development drawn to an identified scale no smaller than 1:2500. Greater flexibility is provided for the scale of plans for offshore developments to avoid pages of maps showing empty sea.

12.2 Applicants are encouraged to discuss plan scaling with the Planning Inspectorate in advance of the submission of the application. The scale used for each plan, drawing or section should ensure that each clearly and accurately depicts the Proposed Development. Equally, electronic application documents should be provided with suitable resolution in this regard. A scale bar should also be included on each plan in order to prevent any ambiguity when dimensions or distances are measured on any copies of the plans, or electronically. Applicants should notate key dimensions and measurements on each plan, drawing or section (eg showing proposed distances from a proposed building to the boundary of the site or the heights of key buildings within a scheme).

12.3 Linear schemes may require a sequence of drawings to depict the full extent of the Proposed Development. Where sequenced drawings/sections are provided a key plan and sequence/section notation should also be provided.

13. Appendices

13.1 Appendices are useful for setting out in an ordered and readily identifiable form factual, technical and other material upon which the main body of information is based. Applicants should ensure that appendices are relevant to the application proposals.

13.2 Appendices should be referenced and indexed and may be separately bound for printed copy applications where appropriate. Hard copy documents should also include annotated section dividers to enable quick and easy retrieval of information. It is important that the relevance of appendices is clearly explained in the document to which they relate.

14. Data protection and privacy

14.1 As application documents will be published to the National Infrastructure website, Applicants should avoid the inclusion of any personal data relating to individuals in the documents they submit; in particular the consultation report. This includes photographic images of the faces of individuals who have not consented to their images being used. Also, the written signatures of 3rd parties. The Planning Inspectorate will handle information in accordance with the Planning Inspectorate Privacy Notice on GOV.UK. We follow protocols set down by the Information Commissioners Office, further details of which can be found at www.ico.gov.uk. Please contact the National Infrastructure case team for further information and advice on this matter.

15. Copyright and intellectual property

Applicants should ensure that they have permission to use all documents, plans, drawings, images and audio / visual content included with a submitted application. Terms and conditions of the use of the National Infrastructure Planning website.

16. Applications in Wales

16.1 In accordance with the Welsh Language Act 1993, the Planning Inspectorate has a Welsh Language Scheme which has been approved by the Welsh Language Board. For proposals affecting Wales, we strongly urge Applicants to provide appropriate application documents in English and Welsh. Applicants are encouraged to liaise with the relevant local authority about which particular application documents should be made available in the Welsh language. Providing translations of application documents where appropriate is the responsibility of the Applicant.

17. Application acceptance checklist

17.1 To help decision-making on whether or not applications are of a satisfactory standard to be accepted for examination, the Planning Inspectorate has produced an ‘Acceptance of Applications Checklist’ based upon the criteria set out in s55 of the PA2008. A copy of the checklist is provided at Appendix 3 of this Advice Note (DOC, 196 KB). Applicants may find it helpful to refer to the checklist in preparing their applications for submission. Please note that the completion of this checklist by the Applicant should not however be seen as a guarantee that the application will be accepted as this is a matter for the Planning Inspectorate to consider on behalf of the Secretary of State.

18. GIS shapefile

18.1 In order to assist in reviewing the adequacy of pre-application consultation, including the identification of prescribed consultees, Applicants are requested to provide the Planning Inspectorate with a GIS shapefile of the land over which authorisation is sought within the application. It would be helpful if this shapefile could be sent to the Planning Inspectorate’s Environmental Services Team ([email protected]) at least 2 weeks/10 working days in advance of the formal submission of the application. It should comply with the following requirements:

  • it should be a polygon geometry type and consist of one or more polygon features representing the proposed DCO site boundary (including any temporary, permanent and associated development);
  • it should be a single, valid, ESRI Shapefile for the proposed DCO site boundary, provided as a *.zip file using
    the default WinZip settings (ie no encryption, normal compression etc.);
  • the *.zip file must contain one of each of the following files: *.prj, *.dbf, *.shp, *.shx; and
  • there must not be any other files within the *.zip file;
  • it should be in the British National Grid (OSGB1936) format;
  • multiple *.zip files or multiple .shp files within a single zip file are not compatible with the Planning Inspectorate’s GIS system. If the proposed DCO site boundary comprises a number of separate discrete polygons, these should all be included within the single shape file contained in the *.zip file.

19. Fees, Payments, Timings and Method

Application fee

19.1 An application fee must be paid when the NSIP application is submitted. The Planning Inspectorate does not raise an invoice for the application fee and will not consider the application until payment is received.

Pre-examination fee

19.2 If the application is accepted for examination a pre-examination fee, determined according to the size of the appointed panel, will be requested. The request will be issued by the Planning Inspectorate and include an invoice for the pre-examination fee amount. If the Applicant fails to pay the pre-examination fee within the time specified, the Planning Inspectorate will not take any further steps in relation to the application until payment has been received.

19.3 The examination fee is split into two payments that will be requested at distinct stages in the process.

19.4 The first request will be made following the Preliminary meeting and will be for half of the anticipated cost of the examination. An invoice will be sent by Planning Inspectorate requesting that payment is made in full and in line with relevant terms and conditions.

19.5 The second request will account for the remaining balance of the examination fee and will be made promptly after the examination has closed. An invoice will be sent by the Planning Inspectorate requesting that payment is made in full and in line with relevant terms and conditions. If the Applicant fails to pay the final payment within the period specified this may have consequential impacts on the process.

Method

19.6 The Planning Inspectorate requests that payments of all applicable fees are made via electronic transfer rather than by individual cheque payment where possible.

19.7 The Planning Inspectorate requests payment promptly and within 30 days of the date of any invoice.

19.8 A payment sheet with full details regarding the payment process is available on request. All fees associated with the PA2008 are established in accordance with relevant legislation and guidance.

19.9 Remittance notes and payable orders should be sent to:
Planning Inspectorate, Finance 3P kite, Temple Quay House, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN e-mail address:  [email protected]

19.10 As part of the pre-application service, and to help prepare the application documentation, we encourage Applicants to submit draft application documents to the Planning Inspectorate. The Planning Inspectorate will be able to provide Applicants with non-binding advice** as to whether the documents have been prepared to the necessary standards. Feedback on draft documents will usually be provided at a meeting between the Applicant and the Planning Inspectorate, offering an opportunity for Applicants to talk through their proposed application documentation. Any advice given will be without prejudice to the formal decision of the Secretary of State on the acceptance of an application under s55 of the PA2008.

19.11 Applicants may also wish to submit parts of the application documentation to the relevant local authorities and any other parties with whom consultation is on-going.

19.12 This will ensure that relevant bodies are aware of the nature of the exercise that is being undertaken and enable them to engage with the Applicant at an appropriate time, should they wish to do so.

19.13 The Applicant is encouraged to maintain dialogue with the Planning Inspectorate through the appointed contact to ensure that the application information is prepared and presented effectively. This will help applications to be assessed as efficiently as possible and ensure that the accessibility of information to all parties is optimised.

19.14 If you are unsure as to who your appointed contact is please telephone 0303 444 5000 for further information.

20. What happens next?

20.1 Provided the Applicant agrees, the Planning Inspectorate will publish the application for development consent with all associated documentation on the National Infrastructure website as soon as practicable after its receipt. The Planning Inspectorate, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, has a period of 28 days, starting on the day after it receives the application, to decide whether or not to accept the application for examination. Acceptance means that an application proceeds to be considered at examination. It does not make any decision on the outcome of the DCO application at this stage.

20.2 The Applicant will be notified of the decision to accept the application or, where the application has not been accepted, the Applicant will be given reasons why it has not been accepted.

20.3 If an application is accepted Applicants are required, in accordance with s56 of the PA2008, to notify each of the prescribed persons and bodies and publicise the accepted application. This involves inter alia making the full application, including all documents and information accompanying the application, available to each person notified of the accepted application. Applicants should also be aware of the additional publicity, consultation and certification requirements for accepted applications involving an environmental impact assessment (Regulations 16 and 17 of The Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017). At least one copy (electronic or hard copy) should be made available at a location or locations in the vicinity of the Proposed Development, it is for Applicants to decide the number of printed copies it considers to be appropriate.

Table 1: Suggested order of information submitted with application

CategoryDocument type
Application form-     Completed and signed form
-     Copies of newspaper notices
Plans/Drawings/Sections-     Location plan(s) (o)
-     Land plan(s) (i) (including plans showing land proposed to be compulsorily acquired, over which rights are proposed to be extinguished and special category land)
-     Works plan (j)
-     Access/Rights of way plan (k)
-     Site layout plan(s) (o)
-     Elevation drawings (o)
-     Floor plans (o)
-    Access/Parking/Landscaping (o)
-    Drainage/Surface water management (o)
-     Other detailed plans/sections (o)
-     Plan(s) of statutory/non-statutory sites or features (nature conservation, habitats, marine conservation zones, water bodies etc) (l)
-     Plan(s) showing statutory or non-statutory historic or scheduled monument sites (m)
-     Plan showing any Crown land (n)
-     Charts for marine schemes (o)
Draft development consent order-     Draft proposed order (b)
-     Explanatory memorandum to draft proposed order (c)
Compulsory Acquisition information-     Statement of reasons (h)
-     Funding statement (h)
-     Book of reference (parts 1 to 5) (d)
Reports/Statements-     Consultation report
-     Flood risk assessment (e)
-     Assessment of nature conservation effects (l)
-     Assessment of historic environment effects (m)
-     Environmental protection information (f)
-     European site appropriate assessment report (g)
-     Details of other consents and licences
-     Details of associated development (with references to documents)
Environmental impact assessment & habitat regulations information-     Environmental statement (ES) (a)
-     ES technical appendices (a)
-     Non technical summary (a)
-     Screening opinion (if applicable) (a)
-     Scoping opinion (if applicable) (a)
-     Publicity requirements (a)
Photographs-     Photographs and photomontages (q)
-     Plan identifying locations and directions of photographs (q)
-     Index of photographs (q)
Other media-     Model information (q)
-     Any other media information (q)
Additional information for specific Offshore generating station (p): types of infrastructureOffshore generating station (p):
-     Details of proposed route for offshore cables
-     Safety zone statement
Non offshore generating station (p):
-     Statement of responsibility for designing and building the connection
Highway or railway development (p):
-     Levels/depths/heights of proposed works
-     Cross sections
-     Drainage outfall details
Harbour facilities (p):
-     Statement(s) on why DCO is necessary
Pipelines (p):
-     Name and owner
-     Measurements of pipeline
-     What will be conveyed by the pipeline
-     Any grant of rights in land or consents that are required
Hazardous waste facility (p):
-     Statement of purpose and annual capacity/final disposal/
-     recovery
Dam or reservoir (p):
-     Recreational amenities
Other documentsAny other document not listed above which the Applicant chooses to support the application (q) (e.g. documents to meet the requirements of a National Policy Statement, planning statement, design and access statement, sustainability appraisal, health impact assessment, travel plan, code of construction practice, carbon economy report)

Annex 1 and 2 to this Advice Note provides an application index, and guidance, to assist in organising the submission of documents.

Regulations 5, 6 and 7 of The Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009 set out the statutory requirements for what must accompany a development consent Where applicable, the letters in brackets following each document type refer to the particular document requirement within regulation 5(2).