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22 January 2020

850: Delay for sixth DCO decision in a row

Today’s entry reports on delays to decisions on development consent orders.​

On 16 January 2020 the decision on the Manston Airport DCO application, due on 18 January 2020, was delayed for four months via a written statement in parliament from transport minister Nusrat Ghani MP.​

That marks the sixth delay in a row for decisions on DCO applications. In a sense, Manston has fared better than the others, which have been delayed for six months in one case and ‘sine die’ (ie to an until as yet unspecified date) in the other four cases.​

The delay statements sometimes admit that the election was the cause but mostly don’t, and say that further information is required, in general not having asked for any during the three month decision period.​

While the election period clearly does mean that some work is unable to be done and decisions themselves should probably not be issued during them, especially on the larger and more controversial projects, surely consultations would be OK during that period.​

I said it before during the last (and until then – only) spate of delays during 2017-18, but certainty of timing is one of the biggest assets of the regime. The Planning Inspectorate do their bit in keeping to time on examinations and producing examining authority reports, but it is when those reports land on government departments’ desks that hold-ups are occurring, and this cannot continue for long now that the election is well and truly over.​

Both main departments have delayed applications, incidentally; of the six, three are transport projects and three are energy projects. However, there is a seventh earlier project that is also delayed, Hornsea Three, which means that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy edges it over the Department for Transport.​

In one positive sign, the Secretary of State for Transport has asked for further information on the A63 highway project fairly early on in the three-month period, which is a hopeful sign that things are settling down.

So while the election is a genuine reason for delay, any decisions due from 12 March 2020 onward should be unaffected and we should be back on an even keel by then.

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