What is a Development Consent Order? 

A Development Consent Order (DCO) is a piece of law that gives authority to East West Rail Company (EWR Co) to build the new railway. The DCO process is for major projects, so it would grant consent for the entire Project, combining multiple approvals into one document. 

Before we can start building the final section of East West Rail – which involves a new railway between Bedford and Cambridge and associated works to the existing railway between Oxford and Bedford – we need to do lots of planning to make sure we introduce the right kind of railway. This includes the route the railway takes, where stations will be located and lots of other considerations like where to build train depots and how to protect the environment. 

These decisions are not taken lightly and there are lots of checks and reviews of plans before the railway can be built. Ultimately, the final plans need to be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport. For major projects like East West Rail this requires a type of approval known as “development consent”, which is granted via a DCO. 

230929 EWR S2 DAY6 MK TRAIN STATION 1388 v2

There are six key stages and approvals as part of the DCO process:

  • 1. Pre-application
  • 2. Acceptance
  • 3. Pre-examination
  • 4. Examination
  • 5. Recommendations and decision
  • 6. Post-decision

So where is East West Rail in this process?

We’re currently in the first stage of the DCO process: the pre-application phase. During this stage, we explore the hundreds of possible proposals and designs for the railway, for example: 

  • The railway’s route.
  • How different routes cross roads and rivers, and impact the local environment.
  • How the line could join existing railway lines.
  • Infrastructure changes.
  • Ways we can prioritise the environment, climate and biodiversity. 

During this phase, our team will identify and develop the best options for the railway and its future users. This includes working alongside local communities and other stakeholders to test ideas and opportunities when plans are at an early stage. 

We then have a legal duty to hold a public consultation on more detailed proposals before we can apply for a DCO. We call this a statutory consultation. As part of the pre-application stage, we plan to host two stages of statutory consultation. The feedback received will help us to refine the design and improve our DCO application. 

Our Consultation Report, which will be publicly available and submitted as part of the DCO application, will detail how we have taken feedback into account and where issued raised have resulted in changes to the design. 

MSAP Anatomy EWR IMG 5666
DSCF2126 v4

What is a statutory consultation?

A statutory consultation is a legally required process where we offer communities the opportunity to review and comment on detailed EWR proposals before we apply for a Development Consent Order. 

This differs from the non-statutory consultations we held in 2019 and 2021 as statutory consultation has legal requirements that must be met. For example, minimum time periods for consultation and issuing statutory notices prior to consultation. The non-statutory consultations we held in 2019 and 2021 were consultation exercises held at EWR Co’s discretion and allowed us to gather ideas and get feedback to shape our plans as they evolve.  

During the statutory consultation process we will consider all feedback given to us about our proposals. We will set out how our proposals have been informed and influenced by feedback in a Consultation Report which will be submitted with our DCO application. 

We plan to hold two stages of statutory consultation. The first is due to commence in summer 2024 and the second is proposed for 2025. 

A two-stage statutory consultation will: 

  • Help communities and stakeholders better understand our plans. 
  • Increase opportunities for people to share their views and feedback on our proposals. 
  • Help us develop a better solution, informed by the communities EWR would serve. 

What happens next – and how can people get involved?

This summer, we’ll hold the first stage of our statutory consultation and will be seeking the views of local communities along the route. The consultation is open to anyone who wishes to take part. 

We’ll actively publicise both stages of statutory consultation using a variety of methods, for example local newspaper advertising, posters, and leaflet drops. This will be in line with the Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC) which sets out how local communities will be consulted and has been agreed with local authorities along the route.  

The statutory consultation will be an important further opportunity for people to review and comment on detailed proposals for EWR before we apply for a DCO. We encourage as many people as possible to get involved and have their say during the two stages of statutory consultation, with the first stage being held this summer. 

How will I be kept updated as the DCO process progresses?

The best way to stay in touch with us is to join our mailing list. You’ll receive a regular newsletter with project updates as well as key project announcements. You can sign up to our newsletter here.  

You can also keep up to date on DCO applications on the Planning Inspectorate website. Once the application has been submitted, you can sign up as an ‘Interested Party’ to get involved.  

Find out more about the DCO process and how to get involved on the Planning Inspectorate website here.

Who can I contact for more information?

We hope we’ve managed to cover all of your questions in the above. But if you’d like any more information on the planning process, then please do get in touch. 

Phone: 0330 134 0067 

Email: [email protected] 

Post: FREEPOST East West Rail