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06 December 2019

847: December DCO decision delays and a Christmas competition

Today’s entry reports on delays to Development Consent Order decisions.

DCO decision delays

All four of a clutch of decisions on Development Consent Orders due in the next few days have been delayed, meaning that six of the last eight decisions have been delayed.

The decisions on the Lake Lothing Crossing and the A303 Sparkford (not Stonehenge, the other one), both highway projects, due on 5 and 12 December respectively, were delayed on 15 November. A note on the Planning Inspectorate website simply says that in light of the general election, each decision has been delayed until an as yet unknown date due to the general election.

On 22 November, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a letter delaying the decision on the Thanet offshore windfarm extension, due on 11 December. This time the letter asks for further information on 11 issues by midnight on 13 December 2019 (note to deadline-setters: midnight is ambiguous as it could be the midnight at the start of a day or the end of a day, which is why 23:59 is used). The letter does not mention the election but is delaying the decision due to this additional consultation, similar to the delay for the Wylfa nuclear power station project, although no new date is set in this case.

On 6 December, the same Secretary of State issued a letter delaying the decision on the Norfolk Vanguard windfarm, due on 10 December. This is another letter asking for further information on 15 issues by 23:59 (there we go) on 28 February 2020. Again the letter does not mention the election and no new deadline is set.

In October, two projects were decided on time (the Drax repower project and the Northamptonshire rail freight interchange) and two were delayed until 31 March 2020 (the Hornsea three offshore windfarm and the Wylfa nuclear power station). The next decision after the December clutch is for Manston Airport, due on 18 January 2020, the first of the new decade.

Although the general election is a valid reason for delaying decision (although they are able to be taken early, like the Abergelli Power Station project was in September), the government does need to be careful not to slip back into frequently delaying decisions as happened in 2016-2018. This reduces confidence in the Planning Act regime as one of its key strengths is its largely fixed and predictable timescales.

Christmas competition

Now onto the (eighth annual) Christmas competition!

This year I have ten vaguely mostly infrastructure-related general knowledge questions, but one of them is the name of a nationally significant infrastructure project that you have to deduce. Please email me the answers to all ten questions by the deadline of 23:59 on 2 January 2020. The first correct answer out of the virtual hat will win a bottle of champagne. If there are no correct answers I will drink it myself.

Here are the questions:

  1. A word or phrase that is the same forwards and backwards (10)
  2. River that runs through Leeds (4)
  3. Tallest rollercoaster in the UK, in Blackpool (3,3)
  4. Bridge convention named after a street in NW6 (4)
  5. Town at north end of HS2 phase 2a (5)
  6. Width of a bridge (4)
  7. Fast reaction matching card game (4)
  8. Joseph Bazalgette built one (5)
  9. NSIP
  10. Spanish national airline (6)

Good luck and have a great festive season!

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