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14 December 2018

815: Review of 2018 in infrastructure planning

As usual, at the start of the year I made 10 predictions (in blog 784). How accurate were they?

1. Three applications will be decided in 2018

Correct, just three decisions on Development Consent Order applications were made this year: Silvertown Tunnel, Eggborough power station and A19 Testo’s Junction (and there won’t be another one in the last few days of the year). That is the lowest number since the regime began. The year saw five correction orders and seven amendment orders, though, so DCOs are changing four times more often than they are being made.

2. All three will be approvals

Correct. The Silvertown Tunnel was significantly delayed, but it was an approval nonetheless. The other two were approved on time, reversing the recent trend for delayed approvals, which I hope is a good sign.

3. Two National Policy Statements will be published in draft

Correct. The NPSs for Geological Disposal Infrastructure and Water Resources were published at either end of the year – January and December. I guessed one of those wrongly (Nuclear Power rather than Geological Disposal) but the main prediction was correct so I’m counting it! No sign of any move to renew rather aged NPSs other than the Nuclear Power one, which is presumably only being renewed because it says it only lasts until 2025.

4. No judicial reviews of DCO decisions will be successful

Correct. In fact there was only one such judicial review – the Court of Appeal heard a challenge to the refusal of the Mynydd y Gwynt onshore wind farm application – the judgment can be found here. The reversal of the Preesall gas storage DCO refusal remains the only successful judicial review relating to the regime.

5. Eight applications will be made this year

Massively incorrect. 21 applications have been made so far (23 if you count ones that were made twice). No applications were made in the first three months, and only one up to the 13 May. After that a glut of applications broke the drought and we’re now swimming in them. I am usually an optimist but was having a pessimistic moment when I made that prediction, based on the very low application rate at that time and the prospect of Brexit slowing things down, which does not seem to have happened, so far.

6. No applications will contain housing in 2018

Correct. Although the ability to include an element of housing in a DCO application has been available since April 2017, none of that glut of applications has chosen to do so. Some say that housing needs to be able to be the main purpose of an application before it the regime will be used for it.

7. The Planning Act 2008 regime will not be amended by primary legislation

Correct. It did get amended by a single piece of secondary legislation (the Environmental Assessments and Miscellaneous Planning (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018). I conclude that the regime is now pretty stable, although the main reason may be because Parliament has had other things to spend its time on recently.

8. An application for a business or commercial project will be made

Incorrect. We still haven’t seen one of those since they were able to be made five years ago. Still only two projects have opted to use the Planning Act regime (London Resort and IAMP) but neither has made an application yet.

9. The National Infrastructure Commission will publish its final National Infrastructure Assessment

Correct. It did so on 10 July and can be found here. The government is supposed to respond within six months, with a backstop (to coin a phrase) of a year. I don’t see it doing anything by 10 January, and I’m not sure it will do anything by 10 July 2019 either – its only commitment, made on budget day, was to respond next year.

10. This blog will clock up 825 posts this year

Incorrect, I’m 10 short. I think that is a reflection of how busy things are getting generally, with less time for such fripperies as blog writing. There is also possibly a bit less Planning Act 2008 news than there has been previously, but perhaps this will pick up next year as the number of applications has picked up.

Results: 7 out of 10 correct, which is actually quite good for me.

This is the final blog of the year. Have a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2019. The champagne Christmas competition at the end of the last blog is still running…

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