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12 July 2019

833: Latest DCO decision as government ignores NIC charter

Today’s entry reports on the most recent decision on an application for development consent and notes the anniversary of the publication of the National Infrastructure Assessment.

Latest DCO

On 5 July the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Kemsley Paper Mill CHP plant in Kent. This is the 72nd DCO to be granted.

Here are the facts and figures:

  • project: a 73MW combined heat and power plant at Kemsley Paper Mill near Sittingbourne;
  • promoter: DS Smith Paper Ltd;
  • application made: 6 April 2018;
  • one inspector, Kevin Gleeson, his third appointment (although he has been appointed to two more examinations since then);
  • 8 relevant representations, very low;
  • 4 written representations, very low;
  • 190 questions in the first round, below average these days;
  • no compulsory acquisition hearings, three issue specific hearings and one open floor hearing – low;
  • one Local Impact Report, from Swale;
  • examination nine days short of six months, recommendation exactly three months, decision three days short of three months;
  • 455 days from application to decision, 15 months, below average; and
  • 263 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations), low.

This is the second DCO for power at a paper mill, the other one being Palm Paper in Norfolk, approved three years ago. Here are the points I noted in the decision letter.

The letter notes that ‘a number of changes were made to the Application during the examination’, but I can only see one main change, which was an increase in the maximum height of the gas turbine building and was in the manner of a correction rather than a change, which the inspector concluded was non-material.

The project satisfied the requirement to consider CHP opportunities easily, since it is a CHP project.

A requirement that allowed work that wasn’t noisy to be done outside the official working hours was dropped.

An amendment to the DCO is justified as being ‘consistent with similar provisions that have been included in Orders made by the Secretary of State recently in respect of other similar generating stations’. I wish Examining Authorities would take the same line that consistency with other DCOs is a good reason for the provisions that are proposed.

The next decision on a DCO is not due until 2 October for the Hornsea offshore windfarm project three, but then there will be a rush of five in three weeks.

National Infrastructure Commission charter

When the National Infrastructure Commission was created, the government chose not to do so using legislation, saying that this would not be necessary. Instead, it set out how the government and NIC would relate in a charter.

The charter says that:

‘the government commits to supporting the work of the NIC by issuing a formal response to all the recommendations contained in the NIC’s reports, stating clearly whether the government accepts or rejects the recommendations. The government will respond as soon as practicable, which should mean within six months in the vast majority of cases, and never longer than a year’.

Well, the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment, full of recommendations, was published on 10 July 2018, and as of yesterday that was over a year ago. It has therefore not fulfilled that commitment in the charter. The current line is that the response will be possibly issued to coincide with this year’s autumn statement. I bet it would have responded by now had it been a legislative requirement.

This doesn’t seem to have been raised, even by the commission itself. I’m sure being named and shamed in this blog will make all the difference.

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