Mind the Gap! Understanding DCO implementation
You’ve survived the rigors of a Development Consent Order (DCO) examination and, hopefully, 6 months later you have a letter from the appropriate Secretary of State (SoS) that your DCO has been granted. Great stuff, fantastic, it’s been worth all those long hours slogging over a laptop and discussing mitigations, land, and the exact mean of a single word in line 2 of paragraph 3…
So what next? Get the excavators warmed up and start construction!
Well, no. There’s quite a lot to do before you can even consider that. So my question to the collective is: How well is this DCO implementation (post-consent to pre-commencement) phase understood?
In my experience it varies widely. At best you have a client that knows what to do, has prepared a team for this phase during the decision period and the day the SoS letter drops sets them off with eyes set firmly on the finish line. At worse you have a client unaware of what to do and wondering why people are standing in their way starting construction. In truth most projects range between these two extremes.
Why do some projects end up heading towards the ‘at worst’ scenario? Off the top of my head the following are some of the contributory factors, set under the broad categories of people and process:
- The team that supported the DCO examination being off-hired as “their job is now done”
- The existing team being fatigued following the completion of the DCO Examination and being keen to move on to another project and/or taking all the accrued annual leave
- Supply chain procurement strategies bringing in a new team to finish the design and deliver construction on site, with no knowledge transfer
- Not having people who have implemented a DCO as part of the team and not being able to learn from their experience
- The sheer complexity of a made Order and all its associated control documents
- Not using the six-month decision phase period effectively to plan and prepare
- Considering that implementing the DCO is an add-on to the project delivery process, not integrating it into the programme and underestimating the level of effort required
- A lack of clear process, after completing a heavily regulated examination period, leading to uncertainty of what to do when
The above are just a handful of the key factors and there are many others including the impacts of funding and delays in receiving the DCO decision. I’m stating the obvious but, addressing the above will increase your chances of heading towards the ‘at best’ scenario. The question is how best to achieve this? My 6 top tips are:
- Recognise that this is a specialised area of expertise – engage those that have this delivery experience
- Try and retain some of the examination team – they have a significant knowledge bank
- Accept and budget for the DCO implementation phase not happening overnight – it won’t
- Ensure that those brought in to manage, design and construct the project are fully briefed on DCO matters – they can’t be ignored
- Use the DCO decision phase time wisely – it can give you a good head start
- Keep engaging with key stakeholders – you’ll need their support in discharging the DCO
So, thoughts please. Do you believe, like I do, that we should recognise that managing this process is a specialised task best undertaken by those that have been through it before? Is there enough awareness, training and understanding in the industry and client / delivery teams? What are your solutions? Post your thoughts here.