Nichols Group report outlines Project Speed framework
Boris Johnson has put infrastructure at the heart of the coronavirus recovery and tasked Project Speed to deliver it back in 2020. A new report, the Nichols Vision Report, has set out three critical accelerators designed to achieve the government's aims as they build back better, greener and faster.
According to the report, these accelerators combined with a project management approach to achieve faster project delivery. The report claims they will clarify, rather than remove, the key steps needed to validate planned projects, reducing the bureaucracy of project approval and bringing meaningful change that will benefit future generations.
Streamline governance and decision making
The report claims better collaboration is needed from the start of any project to streamline efficiency and reduce bureaucracy. Improved online and offline collaboration has the power to develop more productive long-term relationships, and ensures that all decision making bodies meet and agree formal decision points and criteria.
The designation of a single board could reduce cumulative delay and streamline key decision making, using experts from other boards to ensure diversity. By agreeing on the objectives and vision early, the report argues, plans can be followed through with conviction and without having to be revisited annually.
Speed up planning decisions
The report cites the statistic that the maximum Development Consent Order planning time is currently 15 months. Using the proposed accelerators this could be reduced to under a year by eliminating pre-submission processes that lead to delays. And while the World Economic Forum recognises the process as one of the world's fastest, Nichols Group has identified three drivers that could accelerate decision making:
- Reinforce the principle that a detailed proposal only requires one substantial local consultation with stakeholder and community engagement.
- Give the planning inspectorate additional powers to exercise judgement on environmental assessments. Currently, a developer may be required to prove no Environmental Impact Assessment is required by conducting one.
- Develop a Planning Centre of Excellence to improve capacity in the profession leading to more efficient management of major planning applications.
Creativity and diversity, the report argues, is critical for the success of Operation Speed.
Design a variety of options
With a portfolio of projects, the report recommends learning from successful projects and having several construction options available so the best one can be identified as soon as possible.
Issues like supply chains can be hugely damaging to speed and momentum, so it's critical to engage them early in the design process for best results.
Report co-author Kerry Bangle is keen to point out that speed for speed's sake will not necessarily deliver the desired outcomes and may create additional complexities. Instead, she argues that Project Speed should carefully utilise pilot schemes as 'safe spaces' where art of the possible solutions and project blockers can be identified.
Choose your speed
Ultimately, according to the Nichols Report, prioritising people and giving them the tools they need to create the best solutions is fundamental to getting a project right from the outset. If everyone understands the intent from the start then culture, capability, capacity and co-creation will follow. Diverse and multidisciplinary teams with a collaborative culture will help people align to the fairer, faster and greener agenda, and achieve the pace that Project Speed requires to succeed.