Major changes proposed for water infrastructure consents in Wales

The Welsh devolved administration is proposing a raft of changes to the consenting regime for major infrastructure projects including some types of key water schemes.

Included would be dams and reservoirs providing storage or holding back some 10 million cubic metres of water; water resource transfer schemes exceeding 100 million cubic metres and waste water treatment plants serving a population of 500,000 people or more and providing the transfer or storage of 350, 000 cubic metres of waste water.

The new regime would also apply to proposals to increase the capacity of a treatment plant to serve an additional 500,000 population or store or transfer a further 350,000 cubic metres of waste water.

The proposals, now out for consultation, would create a new form of approval known as a Welsh Infrastructure Consent (WIC).

This regime would build on the Wales-only Developments of National Significance (DNS) arrangements and, crucially, echo most aspects of the existing Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project regime in England and Wales with its attendant Development Consent Orders (DCOs).

The intention is to give a scheme promoter the equivalent of planning permission as well as enabling promoters to rationalise secondary consents like compulsory purchase, planning permission for associated development, highways orders, listed building consent and hazardous substances consent.

“The process will be a one-stop shop, where the developer asks for other authorisations or approvals to be included as part of the consent. It will incorporate those aspects of community consultation which have worked well in other regimes.

“The new arrangements will replace the current DNS process in its entirety and partially remove other regulatory processes” stressed the consultation document.

It added: “The WIC will allow us to bring together the range of authorisations, licences and consents required to implement projects which are prescribed as WIPs and will allow Welsh ministers to consider considering projects holistically. Where requested, the process can provide all the authorisations needed to proceed. This would simplify the process for developer’s communities and consultees.”

This change will require primary legislation. No timetable has yet been proposed by ministers.

As well as major water developments the new regime will cover energy projects; new roads, ports and harbours; rail schemes (including rail freight proposals) and airports as well as hazardous waste schemes.