UK: Infrastructure Planning Review Of 2013 And A Competition

Last Updated: 20 December 2013
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry looks back at the infrastructure planning developments of 2013.

As this is the last entry for 2013, it is time for a retrospective. Back in January I made ten predictions about 2013 - how accurate were they?

Prediction 1: 13 infrastructure projects will be decided in 2013. Correct. This is very encouraging because it confirms the predictability, in time terms at least, of the Planning Act 2008 regime. The 13 are:

  • Kentish Flats Extension - approved on 19 February
  • Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm - approved on 12 March
  • Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station - approved on 19 March
  • Heysham to M6 Link Road - approved on 19 March
  • Preesall Saltfield Underground Gas Storage - refused on 9 April
  • Galloper Offshore Wind Farm - approved on 24 May
  • Triton Knoll Offshore Wind Farm - approved on 11 July
  • East Northants Resource Management Facility - approved on 11 July
  • Port Blyth New Biomass Plant - approved on 24 July
  • M1 Junction 10a Grade Separation - approved on 30 October
  • Redditch Branch Enhancement Scheme - approved on 31 October
  • Able Marine Energy Park - approved on 18 December
  • King's Lynn B Connection Project - approved on 18 December

Prediction 2: Hinkley Point C will be given consent on 15 March. Wrong. It was given consent on 19 March. With hindsight, that wasn't a very good prediction - the government were never going to announce consent for a new nuclear power station on a Friday. Also, Tuesday 19 March was the last day of the three-month period for making a decision, which was the most likely date.

Prediction 3: a judicial review of a Planning Act decision will be launched. Correct. Not just one, but five were launched during the year, none having been launched before. One, against the Heysham to M6 Link Road, has been dismissed. One, against the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, has been withdrawn and another awaits a decision. One, against the Rookery South Energy From Waste project, awaits a hearing in February, and the fifth, against the refusal of Preesall Underground Gas Storage, awaits a decision. Quite a litigious year, but none of the decisions listed above since 9 April have been challenged (yet).

Prediction 4: the National Networks National Policy Statement will not be published in 2013. Wrong. It was published on 4 December. 338 days of 2013 managed to go past without it being published, but it is finally with us. It marks the tenth NPS out of an original 12 expected. No sign of a water one, the airports one is waiting until after the final Davies Commission report in 2015, but there may additionally be a nuclear waste one.

Prediction 5: an application for a business and commercial project to be considered nationally significant will be made. Wrong, as far as I am aware. There is a bit of news there, since the ability to make such an application became available on 18 December, as the regulations for this were finally made the day before that. So there's still a possibility of an application in the dying days of the year, but unlikely. I have heard that there is at least one business or commercial project taking a serious interest in the regime.

Prediction 6: the Rookery South DCO will survive SPP unscathed. Correct. At the start of the year, the Rookery South DCO was still undergoing Special Parliamentary Procedure (the now almost removed ability to reconsider a project in Parliament under certain circumstances). When it finished in February, no changes were made to the Development Consent Order as a result (although the promoter did make a financial contribution to a waterway project). That was a bit of a waste of time!

Prediction 7: no other DCO will undergo SPP in 2013. Correct. The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 has almost put paid to any further SPP, but (a) there are still one or two circumstances where it might happen, e.g. taking National Trust land, or taking and not replacing open space land without a good excuse. Indeed, Thames Water are applying for permission to take open space land without replacing it, saying they do have a good excuse. Also, some projects that were applied for before the Growth and Infrastructure Act must still follow the old rules. I don't think we've seen the end of SPP quite yet.

Prediction 8: three NSIP thresholds will be amended. Correct. I predicted that the thresholds for electric lines, roads and railways would be amended and they were. I also predicted that no others would be and they weren't, including business and commercial projects, which were originally going to have thresholds.

Prediction 9: amending DCOs will become an issue. Correct. The 2014 review, launched early on 4 December 2013, has identified amending DCOs after they have been made as one of its five main topics. A lighter process for material but not huge changes is likely to be introduced as a result.

Prediction 10: this blog will continue throughout 2013. Correct. Still going after 513 entries, I hope the blog has been a useful and readable addition to your infrastructure planning knowledge base.

In total, then seven predictions were correct, one was out by four days, one by 28 days and the last (business and commercial) remains to be seen how wrong it was. Not too bad.

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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