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27 September 2019

840: early DCO decision avoids October glut

Today’s entry reports on the most recent decision on an application for development consent.​

On 19 September the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Andrea Leadsom MP granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Abergelli Power Station. This is the 73rd DCO to be granted.

Here are the facts and figures:​

  • project: a 299MW gas fired ‘peaking’ power station at Abergelli north of Swansea;​
  • promoter: Abergelli Power, part of Drax;​
  • application made: 25 May 2018;​
  • one inspector, Martin Broderick, his fifth appointment (he has been appointed to one more examination since then);​
  • 26 relevant representations, very low;​
  • 10 written representations, low;​
  • 153 questions in the first round, low these days;​
  • one compulsory acquisition hearing, three issue specific hearings and one open floor hearing – fairly low;​
  • one Local Impact Report, from Swansea;​
  • examination exactly six months, recommendation exactly three months, decision three weeks short of three months;​
  • 482 days from application to decision, under 16 months, below average (the average being exactly 500 days); and​
  • 263 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations), low (and the same number as the last project to be consented).​

This decision has been made three weeks before the decision deadline, perhaps because there are three other decisions due in the same week that this one was due.​

Here are the usual notes on the decision. The DCO can be found here and the decision letter can be found here.

This is the last sub-350MW application in Wales as the threshold was raised after it was made in response to Wales developing its own process for smaller projects followed by further devolution of planning and compulsory acquisition powers.

​The ‘order land’ was wider than the ‘order limits’, because the project was seeking compulsory acquisition of land for things for which consent to develop was applied for separately (this being Wales, where associated development is essentially non-existent). Compulsory acquisition extended to the ‘order land’ (including the connections for gas in and electricity out) but development was confined to the ‘order limits’. Interesting to note that compulsory acquisition powers can extend beyond the development in the DCO, is this the first time that’s happened?​

The project didn’t need to consider CHP (combined heat and power) because ‘peaking’ gas power stations are incompatible with CHP, and it’s in the middle of nowhere.​

The decision letter talks about statements of common ground being unsigned because there were still outstanding areas of disagreement. That’s not a reason not to conclude a statement of common ground, indeed the bit at the end that says ‘matters not agreed’ is probably the most useful part. If a party refuses to sign a statement of common ground it is either because they don’t realise that matters not agreed can be listed in it, or the applicant won’t allow unagreed matters to be listed.​

On climate change, the secretary of state said:

‘[Since,] despite the amendment to the Climate Change Act 2008, there have been no subsequent changes to legislation or policy and that the energy NPSs continue to form the basis for decision-making under the​ Planning Act 2008, approval of the application would not itself be incompatible with the Welsh Government’s declaration of 29 April 2019 nor the amendment to the Climate Change Act.’

It is also noted that an Environmental Permit will be required that will be the place where emissions are controlled.​

​So even though the amendment of the Climate Change Act 2008 was itself a legislative change, until the National Policy Statements are declared to be out of date either voluntarily or through judicial review, the government is treating things as business as usual.​

​An article relating to human remains and burial grounds was removed; it is now standard practice that this should only be included if there is evidence that such things are or might be affected by the project.​

The decision letter is 48 pages long, but that is because the second half of it is the Welsh version of the first half. I note that the decision was taken under ‘o Ddeddf Cynllunio 2008’.​

The next decision that is due is for the Drax repower project on or before 4 October. The Hornsea project three decision was due on 2 October, but it has just been announced here that it has been postponed for nearly six months, until 31 March 2020.

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