UK: Seventh National Policy Statement Designated

Last Updated: 1 February 2012
Article by Angus Walker

This is entry number 315, published on 26 January 2012, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. 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 designation of the Ports National Policy Statement.

National Policy Statements

National Policy Statements (NPSs) are the cornerstone of the Planning Act regime: they set out the need for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), the impacts that promoters should address when preparing applications, and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) should assess when considering applications.

Shortly after the Planning Act 2008 was enacted, a programme of twelve NPSs was announced covering a variety of types of project (the government's first Planning Act 'route map' no longer exists on line, but we have saved a hard copy).  Each NPS would be published, subjected to public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, and then a possibly revised version would be brought into force ('designated', to use the word in the Planning Act).

The first route map gave the following timetable (blank means not specified):

Title Publication Designation
Five energy NPSs Summer 2009 Early 2010
Nuclear Power NPS Late 2009 Spring 2010
Ports NPS Summer 2009 Early 2010
National Networks NPS Autumn 2009 Late 2010
Waste Water NPS Late 2009  
Hazardous Waste NPS Spring 2010  
Water Supply NPS Late 2010  
Airports NPS By 2011  


The reality is a little different (blank means not happened):

Title Publication Designation
Five energy NPSs November 2009 July 2011
Nuclear Power NPS November 2009 July 2011
Ports NPS November 2009 January 2012
National Networks NPS    
Waste Water NPS November 2010  
Hazardous Waste NPS July 2011  
Water Supply NPS    
Airports NPS    


To be fair, there were minor matters such as a change in government to throw things off course, but kudos to the Nuclear Power NPS drafters for producing it on the expected date.

Ports National Policy Statement

Today, further progress has been made.  The seventh, and first non-energy, NPS has been designated today.  Here is a link to the designated version of the  Ports NPS and to the ministerial statement announcing its designation.  The same text was published in October 2011, but a Parliamentary debate on the NPS in November was interrupted and time was only found to complete it last week.

As a quick reminder, the NPS applies to NSIPs consisting of harbour facilities, where their goods-handling capacity is above a threshold.  The threshold is 500,000 (small) containers per year, 250,000 roll-on roll-off movements per year, or 5 million tonnes of other cargo, or a combination of these (e.g. 250,000 containers and 2.5 million tonnes of other cargo).  The threshold applies to new harbours and also extensions of existing harbours of the same magnitude (i.e. it is the size of the extension that matters, not the size of the whole enlarged harbour).

The Planning Act regime was 'switched on' for harbour projects on 1 March 2010, nearly two years ago.  During that time only one harbour application has been made to the IPC, last month.

Need

The NPS has a similar format to the six energy NPSs, covering need, general assessment principles, and generic impacts.  There being only one NPS rather than a suite, there is no need for the section on infrastructure-specific impacts that the energy NPSs have.  On need, the NPS concludes that:

'... when determining an application for an order granting development consent in relation to ports, the decision-maker should accept the need for future capacity to:

  • cater for long-term forecast growth in volumes of imports and exports by sea for all commodities indicated by the demand forecast figures set out in the MDST forecasting report accepted by Government, taking into account capacity already consented. The Government expects that ultimately all of the demand forecast in the 2006 ports policy review is likely to arise, though, in the light of the recession that began in 2008, not necessarily by 2030;
  • support the development of offshore sources of renewable energy;
  • offer a sufficiently wide range of facilities at a variety of locations to match existing and expected trade, ship call and inland distribution patterns and to facilitate and encourage coastal shipping;
  • ensure effective competition among ports and provide resilience in the national infrastructure; and
  • take full account of both the potential contribution port developments might make to regional and local economies.

Given the level and urgency of need for infrastructure of the types covered as set out above, the IPC should start with a presumption in favour of granting consent to applications for ports development.'

I hope that the NPS doesn't run into the same difficulty that the draft energy NPSs ran into, namely that it says 'given the level and urgency of need' without actually saying what the level and degree of urgency of need is (see this blog entry).

Impacts

The NPS sets out various assessment principles, providing instructions for applicants' assessments and guidance for the decision-maker on various topics such as economic impact and climate change adaptation.  Finally, it covers a series of 'generic impacts', as follows:

  • Biodiversity and geological conservation
  • Flood risk
  • Coastal change
  • Traffic and transport impacts
  • Waste management
  • Water quality and resources
  • Air quality and emissions
  • Dust, odour, artificial light, smoke, steam and insect infestation
  • Biomass/waste impacts – odour, insect and vermin infestation
  • Noise and vibration
  • Landscape and visual impacts
  • Historic environment
  • Land use including open space, green infrastructure and Green Belt
  • Socio-economic impacts

The next NPS event should be the publication of the National Networks NPS (i.e. road, rail and rail freight interchanges) for consultation, which was definitely going to be this month, although this month is running out.

Previous blog entry 314: Greenpeace loses nuclear power JR as 1200 Hinkley representations made
Next blog entry 316: IPC and NID start to plan handover arrangements

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