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01 June 2018

798: National Policy Statement latest

Today’s entry reports on the latest progress with National Policy Statements.

National Policy Statements (NPSs) are the documents that form the backbone of the Planning Act 2008 regime, as they set out the need for infrastructure and impacts that should be assessed by promoters and decision-makers, thus saving time and focusing issues once applications are made.

There are currently 10 NPSs in existence, and there is a mixture of activity and inactivity relating to them.

Six energy-related NPSs were designated (the equivalent of ‘adoption’ of a local plan) on 19 July 2011, getting on for seven years ago.

Two transport-related NPSs have been designated, Ports on 26 January 2012 and ‘National Networks’ (ie road, rail and rail freight) on 14 January 2015.

Two water or waste-related NPSs have been designated, Waste Water on 9 February 2012 and Hazardous Waste on 6 June 2013.

There are another two NPSs in draft. Here is the latest on those.

The Airports NPS was published as a revised draft in October 2017. It has been subject to public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, and is supposed to be designated in the first half of this year, ie by 30 June, so a month to go. The final version is expected to be deposited in parliament next week, so it is still possible that it could be designated by the end of the month.

Unusually, the chair of the Transport Select Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, is hosting a debate on the committee’s report on the NPS in Westminster Hall, coming up this Thursday 7 June.

The euphemistically titled NPS for Geological Disposal Infrastructure (ie nuclear waste) is a bit behind the airports one, having concluded its public consultation in April and having just started its parliamentary scrutiny stage – the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee is asking for written submissions by 15 June.

Finally, there is one additional NPS and one replacement NPS at earlier stages.

Two consultations have been carried out on development of the Water Resources NPS, and the actual draft NPS is to be consulted upon later this year.

Similarly, one consultation has been carried out on development of a replacement Nuclear Power NPS, and the actual draft NPS is to be consulted upon this autumn. The publication of the draft will be accompanied by a draft list of suitable sites for new nuclear power stations, expected to be the same as the existing list of eight sites minus the one that has been consented, Hinkley Point C.

What hasn’t happened as originally planned is any suggestion of updating the other existing NPSs that are more than five years old, which by next Wednesday will be all of them except the National Networks one. They are getting out of date:

  • the Renewable Energy NPS doesn’t cover types of infrastructure that are now coming forwards such as tidal and solar energy;
  • there are changes in policy, such as no new coal-fired power plants (and no existing ones from 2025), whereas the NPS says all forms of electricity generation are urgently needed; and
  • how NPS wording has been considered and interpreted during examinations of applications would be worth checking, so that any gaps or areas in need of clarification can be sorted out.

Is there a pressing need for revisions to existing NPSs? I think there is, but the government will probably only take notice when developers are deterred from using the regime as not being fit for purpose.

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