UK: Infrastructure Project Decision Time As NID Becomes MAP

Last Updated: 18 March 2013
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the latest progress on nationally significant infrastructure project applications, and changes to the management of the Planning Inspectorate.

Project update

In the next eight days, the government is due to issue three decisions: on applications for the Brechfa Forest West onshore wind farm in Carmarthenshire (by tomorrow), the Heysham to M6 Link Road in Lancashire and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset (by a week tomorrow). The last is the largest application to be decided to date - the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) website contains nearly 2,300 documents that were produced as part of the application and its examination.

How are the other projects doing? There are now 103 projects at all stages on the PINS list. In decreasing order of advancedness, they break down as follows.

Three have been decided: two railway projects, the Ipswich chord in Suffolk and the North Doncaster chord in South Yorkshire, and one offshore wind farm, the Kentish Flats extension off the north Kent coast.

The Rookery South energy from waste project in Bedfordshire seems to be stuck in limbo between special parliamentary procedure finishing and the order being published.

Six projects fall within the three month period for the relevant Secretary of State to issue a decision - the three listed above as due to be decided imminently plus the Preesall gas storage project in Lancashire, the Able Marine Energy Park on Humberside and the Galloper offshore wind farm off the Suffolk coast.

Three are within the three months for PINS to issue a recommendation to the Secretary of State: the Triton Knoll offshore wind farm off the Lincolnshire coast, the East Northamptonshire hazardous waste facility and the Blyth biomass project in Northumberland.

Just three projects are currently under examination: the M1 Junction 10a upgrade in Bedfordshire, the Redditch railway line in Worcestershire and the King's Lynn electric line in Norfolk.

Four have finished their representation period and are awaiting a preliminary meeting: the Fieldes Lock power station in Hertfordshire, the North London electric line, the Stafford railway chord and the East Anglia One offshore wind farm.

The final three projects where applications have been made are within the 28 days that PINS has to decide whether to accept them. These are the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal extension in Northamptonshire/Warwickshire, for which a new application has been made, the previous one having been rejected, the Rampion offshore wind farm off the Sussex coast, for which a new application has been made, the previous one having been withdrawn, and the Thames Tideway Tunnel supersewer in London.

Three other applications have been made but have not progressed: the Maesgwyn power line in South Wales was rejected and the Brig y Cwm energy from waste project also in South Wales and the Roosecote biomass project in Cumbria were withdrawn.

So far, then, 28 applications have been made for 26 projects.Of the 28, five have been unsuccessful, three successful and 20 are pending.

Further back in the queue, we have 19 projects that have at least started formal pre-application consultation, and a further 30 that have at least applied for a scoping opinion. That leaves just 14 where no step has been taken at all. The remaining 14 out of the total of 103 have been withdrawn and are marked as 'archived'. The proposed Tyne biomass project has managed to be removed from the list altogether rather than being marked as 'archived', so there have really been 104 projects ever.

The more decisions emerge from the regime on time - particularly successful ones, where 'success' not only means a positive decision but also that those who made representations feel they have been listened to - the more confidence there will be in the regime.

Here is a graphic showing the status of the applications that have been made.The colours have been changed since last time to match PINS' choice of colours (see e.g. page 19 here). I can supply a larger version if you want it.

PINS update

Meanwhile, changes at the Planning Inspectorate come into effect today.Ian Gambles, who was Director of National Infrastructure at the National Infrastructure Directorate of PINS, has now left to join the Forestry Commission as Director for England.The best I can do is that he has swapped PINS for pines.

His replacement is Mark Southgate, who was Director of Casework at PINS, but who has assumed the role of Director of a new Major Applications and Plans Directorate, which we are to call MAP. The handling of development plans and major infrastructure applications is thus being merged - perhaps to prevent the directorate being called MAD.A new Director of Casework will be appointed in due course.

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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Angus Walker
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