Out-Law News 1 min. read

Government starts review of English ports national planning policy statement

The UK government has announced a review of the national policy statement (NPS) for ports in England, originally published in 2012.

The review forms part of the government’s ‘action plan’ to overhaul the planning process for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), and comes at the same time as a consultation exercise on a draft revised National Networks National Policy Statement for road, rail and freight schemes.

Confirming the review, transport secretary Mark Harper said: “It is important to ensure the statement continues to support decision making effectively.”

The NPS for ports will be reviewed in light of recent trends in port freight traffic and the evolution of wider policy, including on environmental impact, Harper said. The announcement follows the designation of new ‘freeports’ in England and Wales, and ‘green freeports in Scotland’, and promised relaxation of planning, employment and tax regulations are aimed at supporting new port development and the transition to net zero.

Harper said the existing NPS for ports will remain in full effect during the period of the review.

Robbie Owen, infrastructure and planning expert at Pinsent Masons, said: “Updates to the NPS have been a long time coming for the ports sector with the current statement over a decade old and lacking in robust support – and location-specific detail – on the role of ports in supporting decarbonisation objectives and national economic performance”.

“UK ports continue to handle approximately 95% of UK trade by volume, so keeping policy in this area up-to-date and fit for future purpose is crucial for a post-Brexit island economy, with few alternatives available for the transportation of bulk cargo, and with some major port projects now in the pipeline,” he said. He added that an up to date NPS was also essential to protect ports against the impact of other national significant infrastructure, particularly energy and highway projects.  

James Gibson of Pinsent Masons added: “Changes to the policy must provide much stronger backing for ports to support the supply chain for renewable energy infrastructure, particularly the manufacturing and supply of offshore wind farm infrastructure and further innovation and adaptation in the offshore environment. More targeted support is also needed for upgrading ports to deploy new low carbon fuels such as hydrogen and install carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) development, where the government has already set very ambitious targets.”

“In addition, the policy needs to continue to encourage sustainable port development and cater for long term growth. New geopolitical uncertainty and concerns over energy security may also revive support for port infrastructure to support the domestic oil and gas sector,” he said.

We are processing your request. \n Thank you for your patience. An error occurred. This could be due to inactivity on the page - please try again.