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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 1029: Aquind and EOR delays and a case on conditions

This week’s entry reports on the redetermination of the Aquind interconnector project, a delay to environmental outcomes reports, and a High Court judgment about conditions relating to external documents.

Aquind news

The Aquind electricity interconnector from Portsmouth to Normandy was the subject of a DCO application in November 2019. Am I the only person who enjoys just typing the letter ‘q’ in the ‘Search project name’ box on the PINS website, and this is the only result? Yes, probably.

Anyway, the project was refused a DCO in January 2022; the refusal was successfully challenged in the High Court on 24 January 2023, just over a year ago, and is still being redetermined. It is not the longest of the six redeterminations, though; it is still 233 days behind A303 Stonehenge.

Nothing much had happened since September, but on 26 January the Secretary of State wrote to interested parties to say that the reason for the delay in redetermining the application is that the Ministry of Defence has asked to prepare ‘substantive concerns regarding the proposed AQUIND project’. That is curious because consent was given by the MoD for the acquisition of land in which it has an interest without further ado during the examination, so these concerns must have arisen recently. There is little interface with MoD land either, so all I can offer is feverish speculation.

To add insult to injury, the lawyers for Rampion 2, the extension to the windfarm off the Brighton coast, have written to express concern that they should have protective provisions included in the Aquind DCO.

Environmental Outcomes Reports

You may recall that the government is proposing to replace those pesky European Environmental Statements with a new UK-style system of Environmental Outcomes Reports (EORs), which of course have been dubbed Eeyores. The idea is instead of reporting negative impacts on the environment caused by projects, projects will have to report how they won’t stand in the way of targets to improve the environment.

On that subject, the government has recently responded to the Office for Environmental Protection’s report into the effectiveness of environmental assessment regimes (to which I made a small contribution) (report; response).

While the response claims that the government is working on the new system, Planning Magazine is reporting (paywall) that it has been told that the regulations will be brought forward ‘from 2025 onwards’, ie after the next general election. Having followed this keenly when first announced I now think it has a less than 50% chance of happening at all, there are plenty of more pressing changes to concentrate on.

Case on conditions

A recent High Court judgment in the case of Laing v Cornwall Council concerned adherence to a condition that in turn referred to a Landscape and Environmental Management Plan which in turn referred to a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal Report. The last of these said that the loss of 5m of hedgerow should be compensated by at least twice as much new hedgerow in compliance with the council’s policy – not just any hedgerow but a special Cornish one that includes earth and stone.

The developer then changed their plans so that 23m of hedgerow would be lost instead of 5m, and the council signed off on them only building 25m of new hedgerow. This was challenged, and the challenge was successful – although the council’s policy of double compensation was not completely hard and fast, they didn’t try hard enough to secure anything close to 46m of new hedgerow that now ought to be required.

The moral of the story is that even second-degree control documents can still have a very real impact on what must be built. From 2 April 2024 (this application was only for nine houses, just under the ‘major application’ limit), a biodiversity net gain of at least 10% would be required, so an increase of 2m would be too little (even 2.3m would probably be too little given the difficulty and temporal multipliers that would reduce the score for the replacement hedgerow).

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