UK: Planning Act Blog 190: Parliamentary Scrutiny of Energy and Waste Water NPSs Revealed

Last Updated: 24 November 2010
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 190, first published on 24 November 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on the programme for parliamentary scrutiny of the energy and waste water National Policy Statements.

Energy

Six energy National Policy Statements (NPSs) were first published in November 2009, and following consultation and parliamentary scrutiny - and an election - revised versions were published last month (see blog entry). NPSs set out the need for new infrastructure, and what applicants should assess and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) should consider when applications are made.

The parliamentary scrutiny in the Commons on the original drafts consisted of consideration by the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, which invited written evidence to be sent to it and held ten evidence-gathering sessions where its members questioned representatives of energy companies, environmental organisations, the IPC and the government on the content of the NPSs, and produced a report of its recommendations.

Unlike the Transport Select Committee on the Ports NPS, the report did not conclude that the NPSs were not fit for purpose, but nevertheless had some criticisms of them (see blog entry). One of the main ones was that the 'Appraisals of Sustainability' (AoSs) that had been published alongside the NPSs did not consider alternatives properly. Although the revised NPSs have not changed a great deal, the AoSs that are published with them have, particularly in how they deal with alternatives. The number of identified sites for nuclear power stations was also reduced from ten to eight, two in Cumbria being dropped.

Revised NPSs now having been published, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has decided that it will only have a single evidence session with a single witness, and does not appear to be inviting written evidence. Next Tuesday, 30 November, at 4.15 p.m., the committee will hear evidence from Charles Hendry MP, the energy minister (no doubt aided by officials from DECC, and possibly also CLG given the subject-matter).

Four topics for discussion have been identified by the committee, not all of which relate directly to the NPSs:

  • the implications of changes in the Planning Act 2008 for the implementation of the National Policy Statements;
  • the robustness of transitional arrangements preceding the abolition of the IPC and the creation of the MIPU;
  • the implications of changes to the Appraisals of Sustainability for the assessment of the National Policy Statements; and
  • how the changes in the revised draft National Policy Statements will affect their contribution to the Government's energy policy objectives.

The first two of these relate to the forthcoming Localism Bill, which was to have been published in time for the committee session, but as we heard on Monday, will now not be. It will therefore be interesting whether any further information about the changes to the regime will be divulged (and there are also CLG questions tomorrow).

The reduced evidence-taking is likely to be because the NPSs have not changed significantly, but then again the make-up of the committee has changed significantly since the consideration of the previous drafts. Only three of the twelve members were in post at the start of this year, which may mean that some issues do get revisited. The membership is currently (with an * against pre-election members): Tim Yeo (Chair), Dan Byles, Phillip Lee, Christopher Pincher, Laura Sandys (Con), Barry Gardiner, Ian Lavery, Albert Owen, John Robertson*, Alan Whitehead* (Lab) and Sir Robert Smith* (LD).

I will attend the session and hope to report on it shortly thereafter.

The committee then has until 21 December to send its report to the government, being 39 days before the 'relevant date' of 31 January 2011 announced upon the publication of the revised draft NPSs.

The House of Lords may also consider the revised drafts, but as it doesn't have departmental select committees, it is likely to have a debate in Grand Committee as it did before. No date has yet been set for this, but it will have to be before 31 January (the 39-day rule only applying in the Commons).

In parallel, there is a public consultation exercise running, which ends on 24 January 2011. The government asks respondents to concentrate on the changes made to the NPSs and the accompanying documents, rather than seeking to revisit the policies they set out.

Debates on the floor of both Houses are then expected, given the coalition government's pledge to have a Parliamentary vote on NPSs to ratify them.

Waste water

Meanwhile, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee of the Commons has called for evidence on the Waste Water NPS, published (for the first time) last week - see this blog entry and here is a link to the NPS.

The committee is going to consider the following four issues:

  • responses to the questions in Defra's consultation;
  • do the general planning principles set out in the proposed Waste Water NPS form a coherent, appropriate, proportionate and practical framework within which the Infrastructure Planning Commission and other planners can assess future waste water infrastructure planning applications?
  • are the sustainability and environmental criteria outlined in the draft Waste Water NPS and associated documents appropriate, proportionate and practical? and
  • have issues or principles been left out which should have been included in the draft Waste Water NPS?

Written evidence should be sent to the committee by 5 January 2011. To quote the committee website on how to prepare and send evidence:

Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to efracom@parliament.uk . The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

Submissions must address the terms of reference [set out above]. They should be as brief as possible, and no more than 1,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary (no more than one page long).

The committee is likely to hold oral evidence sessions thereafter (dates to be announced, and reported here when they are), so if you wanted to appear before them to give evidence you should probably mention this in the written submission. It must report by 39 days before 11 May 2011, i.e. 2 April 2011.

Again, the Lords is likely to consider the NPS at a meeting of its Grand Committee, but it does not need to hold this until 11 May 2011.

There is also a public consultation exercise running, which closes on 22 February 2011. The committee will be given copies of responses to this consultation received by its deadline of 5 January, but you are able to respond separately to the committee as set out above.

Link to previous blog entry 189: Localism Bill delay, but here are its likely contents

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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