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25 July 2019

835: All-new DCO decision-makers

Today’s entry reports on the change of prime minister and cabinet.

Having been prime minister for almost exactly half the length of time of David Cameron, Theresa May went to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to tender her resignation to the Queen. Her Majesty then received her 14th prime minister, Boris Johnson, an hour later. There was no lawless ‘purge’ during that hour, thankfully.

Mr Johnson then undertook a comprehensive cabinet overhaul, meaning that every secretary of state connected with the Planning Act 2008 regime has changed. And with 28 live applications, that means a lot is coming to their in-trays. He kept the government departments the same, though, to the disappointment of sign-makers and stationery manufacturers.

Planning

James Brokenshire MP has been replaced by Robert Jenrick, MP for Newark. He does not have any applications to decide, but the overall regime is now his responsibility. He is a former solicitor (having worked for the US firm with the wonderful name of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom) and is only 37, having been the youngest government minister under Theresa May.

Transport

Chris Grayling MP has been replaced by Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield. He has 15 applications in the pipeline, with the next one due for decision being the Northampton Gateway Rail Freight Interchange, due by 9 October 2019.

He has previously complained of the idea of a free vote on the Heathrow expansion, suggesting that he supports expansion; his boss famously took the opposite view upon election as MP for Uxbridge in 2015.

Shortly after deciding his first DCO application, Grant Shapps’ team will be defending the Airports National Policy Statement in the Court of Appeal starting on 21 October 2019, after that court granted four appellants permission to appeal earlier this week.

Energy

Greg Clark MP has been replaced by Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire. She has 13 applications in the pipeline (including a pipeline), with the next one due for decision being the Hornsea Three offshore windfarm, due by 2 October 2019.

Better known as challenger to Theresa May’s candidacy as PM and subsequent role as Leader of the House, she is a former energy minister (2015-2016) so this won’t be completely new for her.

Environment

Michael Gove MP has been replaced by Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet. Her in-tray is currently empty of applications, but if any water, waste, or waste water ones are made, they will be decided by her (or in the case of waste water, jointly by her and Robert Jenrick).

It was announced earlier this week that the Environment Bill would not extend a requirement for ‘biodiversity net gain’ to nationally significant infrastructure projects (see page 5).

So it’s all change in Whitehall, although the new secretaries of state have three months to get their feet under their desks (or go on holiday) before deciding any applications.

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