Construction Site

Can new NSIP proposals ease pressure on big construction projects?

By: Michael Davies, Director Planning, Savills
Published: Monday, November 16, 2015 - 12:15 GMT Jump to Comments

The government’s Productivity Plan provides legislation to allow an element of house building to be actioned when development consent is granted for a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP). This was introduced by the House of Commons in October.

The draft legislation proposes that up to 500 homes can be included as part of suitable NSIPs in England, such as nuclear plants, large commercial schemes or major transport schemes. Under the proposed regime, NSIP housing will be permissible in two scenarios: i) if there is a functional need for the housing and ii) if it is in the vicinity.

I believe that this could provide a number of benefits to improve the sustainability (and possibly the viability) of a project. The housing could be used to provide shelter for construction workers or the employees of the final developer. Major new developments will often be constructed away from existing settlements, or in locations where the surrounding residential areas are already under pressure.

It will be interesting to see whether these proposals will result in model villages, much like those built by landowners and industrialists in the late 18th Century. The most notable examples in England are the villages built by Cadbury at Bournville, Rowntree at New Earswick, William Lever at Port Sunlight and Titus Salt at Saltaire.

To date there has been a relatively low number of NSIPs progressed, so the opportunities and potential impacts of major housing developments proposed may be limited. There may of course be concerns from the house building industry, should the housing element of an NSIP directly compete with other proposed market housing or have a direct and negative impact on sales values. 

Much will depend on where the NSIP housing is proposed, and whether there is a strong enough demand to support additional major housing developments. The draft legislation is not seeking to offer blanket opportunities for 500 dwellings on all NSIP projects, and where locations are restricted by policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), a lower amount of housing or no housing at all may be appropriate.

The change in the NSIP regime may provide commercial developers with an opportunity to bring forward an otherwise unattainable NSIP with enhanced viability, potentially turning schemes that struggle to get off the ground into operable projects. Furthermore, the opportunity to provide a combination of uses and soften the aesthetic appearance of a commercial development may add to the appeal and investment potential of major schemes.

By reducing the spatial gap between jobs and homes there may be an opportunity to enhance the sustainability scoring of a commercial NSIP scheme. Assisting commercial operators to provide living accommodation for staff close to the site may enhance recruitment. It will certainly provide support for key workers who would otherwise be unable to afford property in the locality, quashing the need for lengthy commutes.

The number of opportunities generated by these proposals may not be extremely significant, but ultimately it seems that their function is to ensure that NSIP proposals are seen as attractive and deliverable. We will have to wait to for evidence of any real-world benefits.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.

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