Detail vs Flexibility in DCOs – What is the optimum balance?

July 5, 2016

Following a lively debate at our roundtable on 31st March earlier this year about the assessment of construction effects of nationally significant infrastructure projects, it became clear that the issue of increasing requirements for detail in the assessment, design and specification of DCOs has become an issue of real concern to members. This seems to be not just about the time and cost implications for promoters taking schemes through the DCO process, but also about the consequences for those seeking to engage with and regulate the process, and the constraints that this can place on the effective delivery of the resultant schemes.

NIPA has therefore been exploring the idea of undertaking some original research in this area; to establish what is really happening on the ground – from all perspectives; to identify the extent to which this is a real problem for participants and schemes; and to identify what – if anything – can be done to improve the situation – should this be perceived as being necessary. We are not approaching this work with pre-conceived ideas about the issues or potential solutions, and want to illuminate the debate with some helpful evidence and subsequent recommendations.

This first research project in the NIPA Insights programme has now been agreed with the NIPA Council, and at the AGM on 12th May 2016, and work has subsequently been progressing to specify the work to be done. We now hope to commission a research team over the summer, with a view to starting work in September. We want this work to be carried out interactively with our membership and with stakeholders, and we have therefore included provisions for consultation and engagement in the brief.

In addition, we propose to establish a Member Stakeholder Group. The purpose of this group will be to act as a sounding board for this work, to hear conclusions at key stages of the project, and to influence the direction of its outcomes. We anticipate that there will be a requirement to attend about 3-4 workshops, and that there will be a need for some off-line scrutiny of emerging conclusions. We therefore wish to invite applications from members to participate in this Member Stakeholder Group.


If you are interested in being a part of this work, please send an e-mail to, providing details of your current role, experience of the DCO process and/or delivery of nationally significant infrastructure projects, and a short statement about what you think you will be able to bring to the group.