Interesting discussion on consenting at the Scottish Renewables Offshore Wind conference.

The UK consenting regimes are more flexible than elsewhere in Europe, with the use of the Rochdale envelope, and ability to change.

Within the UK, the key difference is the availability of the DCO (Development Consent Order) procedure in England and Wales for 100+MW projects (50+MW for onshore).

The principal advantage of the DCO is the ability to include other consents and compulsory purchase.

In Scotland, multiple consents need to be obtained. That results in a myriad of conditions to discharge – over 200 for one project. There have been practical problems understanding conditions prepared by regulators, whereas the DCO process requires the developer to draft the conditions.

The DCO process also benefits from guaranteed timescales. It includes public hearings, making it more accessible to the public.

However, there was no call for introduction of a DCO procedure in Scotland. There are concerns that the DCO process is very resource intensive. The Scottish system is generally working well, although the recent RSPB judicial review has raised question marks – the outcome of the appeal is awaited with interest.