UK: Silvertown Delayed Again As Third Air Quality JR Launched

Last Updated: 14 November 2017
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry reports on the latest status of live applications for development consent and a legal challenge.

There are now six 'live' applications for development consent orders (DCOs). The status of each one is as follows, with particular attention given to the first of these.

Silvertown Tunnel

This application was made on 3 May 2016. A decision on it was originally due on 11 October, but on that day transport minister Paul Maynard MP issued a statement delaying the decision until no later than 10 November, ie this Friday (no doubt not delaying it for exactly a month as that would have ended on a Saturday). That delay was:

'to enable further consideration of the recent responses to the Secretary of State consultations on the scheme which relate to the updated UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations published by government on 26 July 2017.'

Yesterday, three days before that new deadline, the deadline for a decision was moved again, again via a written statement by Paul Maynard. This time the decision has been delayed for another six months, until 10 May 2018. This time the reason for the delay was:

'to enable further consideration of the effect of the scheme on air quality (including its compliance with the updated UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations published by government on 26 July 2017).'

This news comes just as environmental campaigning organisation ClientEarth announces it is seeking a judicial review of the Government's third air quality plan, having successfully defeated the previous two. According to their press release the grounds of the claim are:

  • the latest plan backtracks on previous commitments to order five cities (Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton) to introduce clean air zones by 2020;
  • the plan does not require any action in 45 local authorities in England, despite them having illegal levels of air pollution (with two of the 45 complaining they are not being helped); and
  • the plan does not require any action by Wales to bring down air pollution as quickly as possible.

This is beginning to take on a Dickensian flavour. If ClientEarth succeeds in its claim, the air quality landscape (airscape?) could change yet again and cause difficulty for this and other projects. For example, the Government is consulting on how this year's air quality plan affects its policy on Heathrow, but if the plan has to change again, that could cause a further delay.

Now on to the other applications.

M20 Junction 10A

The second oldest application is another road scheme, a new junction on the M20 in Kent, which has been untroubled by any timetabling delays so far. The application was made on 19 July 2016 and a decision is due by 1 December 2017 (so it has now overtaken the Silvertown project).

Eggborough power station

There were then no applications for over ten months until this one was made on 30 May 2017, for a 2500 MW gas-fired power station near Selby in Yorkshire. This started its examination on 27 September, and so a decision is expected around 27 September 2018.

A19 Testos Junction

The third highway project on the books is to a junction on the A19 (pronounced to rhyme with Tesco's, not asbestos), and was made on 14 July 2017. The preliminary meeting kicking off the six-month examination is on Monday 14 November and so should be decided by 14 November 2018, if not before, taking us to three decisions expected next year.

Millbrook power station

Two more recent applications have been made. The first is for a 299 MW gas-fired power station in Bedfordshire, very close to the Rookery South site of the first application that was ever accepted for examination. (Pedant's note: it was not the first application ever made, that accolade goes to the Maesgwyn power line application made two days earlier, but this was not accepted for examination – a brave decision of the Infrastructure Planning Commission to reject the very first application it received).

This application is still in its 28-day acceptance period, and a decision on acceptance must be taken by 20 November.

Tilbury2

Finally, an application was made last week to expand the port of Tilbury on the River Thames in Thurrock, to the east of the existing port (although from the scoping report it looks as though it is being described as a new facility). Again this is in its acceptance period, and a decision on that must be taken by 28 November. Both of the last two applicants have opted not to have the application documents published until after acceptance.

So the drought of applications has eased a bit and we are past the six-year low point of four live applications between August and October. It could have been three but was ironically saved by the Silvertown delay. Three years ago reporting on every live application would have taken up more than four times as much room.

There may still be a lack of applications, but the big issue is the effect on projects of uncertainty over air quality policy.

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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