UK: Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station And Heysham To M6 Link Road Given Consent

Last Updated: 26 March 2013
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the approval of the applications to build and operate the Heysham to M6 Link Road in Lancashire and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.

Hinkley Point C

Today, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey MP made a statement to the House of Commons to say that he had approved the application made by EDF Energy for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.  Today was the last day of the three month period given to the government to make a decision.  The statement can be found here.

This is the first nuclear power station to be approved in the UK since Secretary of State for Energy Peter Walker MP (no relation) approved the application for Sizewell B in Suffolk on 12 March 1987, almost exactly 26 years ago, and less than a year after the Chernobyl accident on 26 April 1986.  Trivia question: what do 1987 and 2013 have in common that no year in between has?

The decision is the seventh to be made under the infrastructure planning and consenting regime introduced by the Planning Act 2008, and by far the largest project to date.

The statutory time limits under the Planning Act have meant that this application has been decided relatively quickly.  The application was made on 31 October 2011, 505 days ago, or one year and four and a half months.  Compare that with Sizewell B, the application for which was made on 30 January 1981, 2232 days or more than six years before the decision.

There is an even greater contrast when it comes to public hearings on the two applications.  The Sizewell B inquiry sat for 340 days, whereas the Hinkley Point C examination involved just 13 days of hearings between 9 May and 6 September last year.

This is because another feature of the Planning Act is that it places great emphasis on written material rather than oral examination.  The application attracted just under 1200 representations from interested parties, and a further 1100 documents were produced as part of the application and during its examination, published for all to see on the Planning Inspectorate website. 

The power station is authorised by means of a 'Development Consent Order' or DCO, which can be found here.  As well as giving permission to build the power station, it also contains all the planning conditions circumscribing the permission, which under the Planning Act regime are known as 'requirements'.  These can be found at Schedule 2 of the DCO. In its final proposed draft of the DCO, EDF Energy included 237 requirements. The government has decided to impose 239, so hasn't increased the burden by much at all.  Actually I've spotted an error - paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 refers to requirements PW1 to PW36, but the list only goes up to PW24.  Did they leave 12 out?

Five inspectors considered the application over a six month period and produced a report three months later (but only published today), which can be found here.  The government then considered this and has produced a decision document today that can be found here

The government said it took some late representations into account, one of which, somewhat surprisingly, was from the Austrian Government, which decided to have its own consultation on the application. The application was approved despite opposition from the Province of Lower Austria, amongst others.

I can also report that Tim Norwood, Planning Manager at EDF Energy responsible for the application won the sweepstake on when the decision would be issued, taking the 1-2 p.m. slot today. Congratulations!  A tip to other project promoters: time your application so that the decision is the day before the Budget, to maximise your chances of success.

Heysham to M6 Link Road

The Hinkley Point decision wasn't the first one to be made under the Planning Act today, however.  About two hours earlier the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, granted consent for a new 4.8km dual carriageway in Lancashire, that will complete a connection from Heysham (site of another nuclear power station) to the M6 at an upgraded junction 34.

This is the first highway application to be decided, and the first where the promoter is a local authority.  It also means we're the first law firm to have acted for the promoters of two successful Planning Act applications.

The Secretary of State's decision letter can be found here (with DCO appended) and the (single) Inspector's recommendation can be found here.

That completes the current run of decisions, the Brechfa Forest West onshore wind farm having been approved last week.  The next decision is due by (for which read 'on') 22 April, for the Preesall gas storage project, also in Lancashire.

*trivia answer - no repeated digits

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Angus Walker
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