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MPs examine planning of major rail and road infrastructure projects

House of Commons Transport Committee to review draft National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS)

Mark Moran
27 March 2023
Greatworth green tunnel portal (HS2)


The government’s proposals to revise the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS) are to be examined by the House of Commons Transport Committee.

Secretaries of State for Transport use regulations contained in the statement when deciding planning applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects for rail and road.

The current NNNPS was published in 2015 and ministers are now looking to introduce a new statement that will take into account aspirations to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

The government’s draft revised NNNPS was published on 14 March and can be viewed here.

Under provisions of the Planning Act, the committee is required to produce a report on the draft statement by 20 October 2023.

Projections of future demand for rail travel and road usage, both for passengers and freight, are considered in the new draft. The cross-party committee will also examine how the NNNPS could support economic growth in different regions.

The draft revised NNNPS was published alongside a Habitats Regulation Assessment and an Appraisal of Sustainability. They are designed to help assess social, economic and environmental effects of new regulations in the NNNPS, and describe actions that could be taken to reduce those effects.

Revising the NNNPS should also provide a greater degree of legal certainty for the government when making decisions on whether to approve new infrastructure projects.

As well as providing a regulatory framework through which transports can decide whether to approve or block new planning applications, the NNNPS also acts as guidance that can help applicants put forward plans that are likely to comply with regulations and be granted planning consent.

Transport Committee chair Iain Stewart said: “The NNNPS is hugely important to deciding the shape of our country’s rail and road infrastructure for years to come, and will have big implications for efforts to reach net zero and connecting towns and cities. It will also be decisive when it comes balancing the needs of local communities, industry and ecosystems.

“We welcome moves to update the statement. My committee will now take a nuanced and detailed look at the government’s draft statement and mark its homework carefully.”

Terms of reference

The Transport committee is looking written evidence that addresses the following terms of reference by Monday 15 May 2023. Its terms of reference are:

  1. Whether and in what ways the draft revised NNNPS is likely to be more effective than the current version, and whether opportunities to further improve have been missed
  2. How effectively the draft revised NNNPS will allow the government to deliver nationally significant infrastructure projects while also allowing for proper scrutiny of proposed projects
  3. How effectively the draft revised NNNPS will prevent delays to obtaining Development Consent Orders
  4. The validity of the draft revised NNNPS’s Statement of Need for the development of National Networks, including a) road and b) rail, including Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges
  5. How effectively the draft revised NNNPS supports the ambition to achieve net zero by 2050
  6. How effectively the draft revised NNNPS supports levelling-up and growth
  7. The effectiveness of the assessment framework that underpins the general policies and considerations set out in Chapter Four of the draft revised NNNPS
  8. How effectively the draft revised NNNPS provides a framework for assessing the general impacts of nationally significant infrastructure projects, as set out in Chapter Five
  9. The robustness and transparency of the Appraisal of Sustainability used to assess the draft revised NNNPS
  10. The effectiveness of the Department for Transport’s consultation on the draft revised NNNPS
  11. The effectiveness of the NNNPS in ensuring alignment with local transport plans and local networks, and taking into account the impact on communities where national networks are located.
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