876: Wylfa further delayed as PINS issues virtual advice note
Today’s entry reports on the status of the Wylfa nuclear power DCO application and a new advice note from the Planning Inspectorate on virtual examination events.
The decision on the application for development consent for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station had already been delayed twice and was due on 30 September. At about 8pm on that day it was announced that it would be delayed a third time until 31 December 2020, following requests from the applicant, Horizon Nuclear Power.
Horizon’s parent company Hitachi announced that it was abandoning the project earlier in September, but Horizon is ‘engaged in discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development’. There are rumours that one such third party is Westinghouse – see this news story.
This is not the first project to be delayed three times, it is the fourth, after Able Marine Energy Park, Hornsea Three (which has had four delays) and A303 Sparkford.
Dear BEIS, may I suggest that you don’t delay decisions to the same date, you are just giving yourself problems. 31 December is already the deadline for the delayed Hornsea Three windfarm. The DfT have learned this and have staggered the delays to the two A303 projects a week apart.
The next decision due is on Esso’s Southampton to London Pipeline project, on 7 October.
New Advice Note on virtual events
The Planning Inspectorate has issued a new advice note number 8.6, on ‘virtual examination events’. The advice note itself is sort of virtual, being a web page rather than a PDF like the other advice notes. I like the new format, although it has fewer pictures it is clean and simple and electronic device-friendly.
It’s called ‘virtual examination events’ because it covers preliminary meetings as well as hearings (and mentions other things such as site visits).
Apart from being virtual, obviously, there are some additional differences from a physical event. First, you can’t just turn up unannounced (although you’re not supposed to even at a physical event), you have to register to receive the link to the virtual event.
Secondly, you are asked to attend an ‘Arrangements Conference’ with Planning Inspectorate staff (not the inspectors) just before the event itself. There is also an option of a ‘testing and familiarisation session’ on an earlier day.
Some events will be ‘livestreamed’, where you can watch them but not participate, that is up to the inspectors.
Preliminary meetings specifically may take place on one or two days – with a rough threshold of 35 participants being the dividing line, and a very large number of participants may result in the first day being split into separate sessions. For a two-day one, parties can make written submissions in between, and may be asked to make oral representations on the second day. Even if a second day is planned, it may not take place if the inspectors decide against it (although that would have the effect of starting the examination from the day after the first session, which may result in some of the six months being lost).
The note describes how the three different types of hearing would work, and – excitingly – there are two types of Compulsory Acquisition Hearing: one about the overall case for compulsory acquisition, and one with individual landowners discussing the impacts on them, although they could be merged.
If there are a large number of parties, Open Floor Hearings and type 2 Compulsory Acquisition Hearings might use an appointment-based system, with timings for when to speak, and no need to join until five minutes before one’s appointment.
A special process for events where a very large number of people want to participate is set out in an annex. In such cases those who do not wish to speak will watch a livestream, and those that do will be on the Microsoft Teams virtual event. Attendees will be asked if they want to be Core Participants, Occasional Participants or Observers. I’m not quite sure what happens to Occasional Participants, they are watching the livestream in the flowchart but presumably will – occasionally – participate in the hearing as well.
Finally, virtual site inspections could take place, mainly using Google Earth, but the idea of live video footage from someone at the site is mentioned, which would be cool.
Next week has some infrastructure planning cases being heard, although judgements on them will be later.
Here’s some late news (always read to the end of the blog…) One case that was not due to be heard until the week beginning 9 November was the challenge by Dale Vince, George Monbiot and the Good Law Project that the suite of six energy National Policy Statements should be reviewed. It now looks as though the government has decided ‘provisionally’ that it will review the energy NPSs after all in the light of this challenge. The current NPSs will not be suspended during this process, though – see this letter. The claimants are maintaining their challenge because they do want them to be suspended, see their response here.