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23 October 2020

878: Latest DCO decision and other news

Today’s entry reports on the latest DCO decision plus a usual selection of supplementary news.

On 21 October the West Burton C gas-fired power station DCO application was granted. Here are the details:

  • project: a 299MW gas-fired power station at West Burton near Gainsborough although in Nottinghamshire;
  • promoter: EdF Energy;
  • application made: 30 April 2019;
  • one inspector, Alex Hutson (his first);
  • 23 relevant representations – low;
  • four written representations – low;
  • 184 questions in the first round, about average;
  • no compulsory acquisition hearings, one issue specific hearing and one open floor hearing – very low;
  • two Local Impact Reports, Bassetlaw and West Lindsey;
  • examination eight days short of six months, recommendation exactly three months, decision one day short of three months;
  • 539 days from application to decision, a bit less than 18 months, above average; and
  • 335 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations) – low.

There are a limited number of points of interest in the decision letter.

One change the Examining Authority recommended was a minimum stack height as well as a maximum one, balancing air quality impacts with visual ones.

On biodiversity the West Burton Power Station Local Wildlife Site was not suprisingly impacted, but only temporarily. There was no discussion of biodiversity net gain.

The usual removals of the Secretary of State’s consent being required not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed, and a time limit to appoint an inspector for an appeal:

‘there is no suggestion that the Secretary of State has failed to respond to such requests within good time’.

A provision to allow trees to be felled or lopped within the public highway boundary was removed as being too far-reaching.

What is particularly interesting about the decision letter is paragraph 6.36 on climate change, where first it relies on the High Court decision supporting the decision on the Drax Repower DCO, and secondly refers to the disclosure that the Secretary of State has:

‘provisionally agreed to announce a review of of the Energy National Policy Statements in the Energy White Paper, and that they will not be suspended during the review’.

Well, that’s one way to make public the provisional announcement of a review.

Other news

Also on 21 October the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the results of a one-year Spending Review will be set out ‘in the last weeks of November’ (how long do they think November is?). Given that one of the three focuses of the review is:

‘investing in infrastructure to deliver our ambitious plans to unite and level up the country, drive our economic recovery and Build Back Better’

I would put a small wager on the National Infrastructure Strategy being published on the same day, despite that not being stated explicitly.

Two more judicial reviews of DCO decisions are in the offing: Manston Airport and the Norfolk Vanguard offshore windfarm. The first is brought by Jenny Dawes, a resident of Ramsgate and the second is brought by Ray Pearce, a Norfolk resident near where the Hornsea Three and Vanguard / Boreas onshore cables will cross. Dates to be announced.

Finally, the application for the DCO for the Lower Thames Crossing was submitted today, 23 October. This project is the largest highway scheme since the M25 and involves a new 4km tunnel under the Thames east of London (which would be the longest road tunnel in the UK), linking the A2 / M2 to the M25.

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