Today's entry reports on the first general extension to
categories of nationally significant infrastructure project.
After yesterday's entry on the Silvertown Tunnel, now it is
the turn of the Thames Tunnel to become an official nationally
significant infrastructure project (NSIP), but by a different
route. In fact the Thames Tunnel became an NSIP first, but
the statutory instrument giving effect to the change has only just
been published. You wait ages for a non-NSIP to become an
NSIP and then two come along at once.
Rather than declare that that specific project should be treated
as an NSIP as happened this week with the proposed Silvertown
Tunnel in east London, this time the list of categories of project
that are NSIPs has been extended in general, specifically aimed at
the Thames Tunnel, but it will catch any other projects of that
type above the size threshold.
Here is the statutory instrument that makes the
amendment to the Planning Act, which came into force six days
ago. This is the first change to the list of categories of
NSIP - there have been many calls to raise or lower the thresholds,
but no changes have actually been made until now. In fact,
this change is not a raising or lowering of a threshold, but an
extension to the description of the category together with its own
threshold. The words 'or of infrastructure for the
transfer or storage of waste water' have been added to the
definition of a waste water NSIP, with a corresponding threshold,
namely a capacity for the storage of waste water exceeding 350,000
cubic metres. That's a whole lot of, erm, waste water -
140 olympic swimming poolsful.
In fact the threshold is considerably lower than needed to catch
the proposed Thames Tunnel supersewer, which is about five times
that size - it was 'calibrated' by reference to the smaller
Lee Tunnel, currently under construction to the east of the Thames
The statutory instrument has an additional provision to allow
any pre-application steps already taken by Thames Water (or the
promoter of any project above the new threshold) to count towards
its application if they would have counted had the project been an
NSIP at that time. I think that Thames Water has therefore
essentially carried out two of the three strands of pre-application
consultation but still needs to do the general public consultation
The process for enacting this statutory instrument was fairly
lengthy, taking nearly a year. A draft was first published
back in July 2011 for consultation, which closed in October.
The government issued its response in January this year, and the
draft SI was then laid before Parliament in February. After
having debates on it in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons (since it is subject to
the 'affirmative' procedure, for the technically-minded),
it was finally 'made' a week ago.
Any other changes to NSIP thresholds are likely to follow the
same process, so we will have plenty of notice of them. The
only one where the government has undertaken to bring changes
forward is that for railways - see this Hansard extract (at the bottom of column
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