888: Latest highway DCO consent and Wylfa recommendation
Today’s entry reports on the A303 Sparkford to Ilchester DCO decision and the Wylfa Newydd recommendation report.
Just after the last blog was published the Secretary of State for Transport granted consent for the A303 Sparkford for Ilchester highway project, further west along the same road that goes past Stonehenge.
This was significant because he had previously issued a ‘minded to refuse’ letter, the first of its kind, so National Highways have turned it round into a consent. Here are the details.
- project: dualling of a section of the A303 trunk road in Somerset;
- application made: 27 July 2018;
- two inspectors, Lesley Coffey and Robert Jackson (their first);
- 41 relevant representations – low;
- 10 written representations – low;
- 457 questions in the first round, above average;
- one compulsory acquisition hearing, four issue specific hearings and two open floor hearings – about average;
- one Local Impact Report, Somerset and South Somerset jointly;
- examination exactly months, recommendation exactly three months, decision 16 1/2 months, ie 13 1/2 months late;
- 917 days from application to decision, 30 months, the third longest; and
- 672 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations) – about average.
The recommendation from the inspectors was to refuse, and six issues were listed in the ‘minded to refuse’ letter as needing to be dealt with to avoid refusal. These were:
- aircraft bird strike from drainage ponds, which was dealt with via a unilateral undertaking to monitor the situation frequently and carry out mitigation measures such as ‘sending a dog to chase the birds’;
- the effect of stopping up of a highway on non-motorised users, HE successfully argued that it was already not suitable for non-motorised users;
- loss of a bridleway, HE successfully argued a replacement one was not needed – this was a negative factor but not enough to override the benefits;
- provision of lighting in an underbridge, again this was not agreed to given its effect on landscape and wildlife but was counted as a negative impact nevertheless;
- responsibility for the detrunked road, HE accepted maintenance responsibility for it; and
- not fully acquiring the land for turning heads for the new highway but using temporary possession for construction and imposing permanent rights, this approach was accepted although full acquisition ‘would have been preferable’, mainly because the landowners concerned were OK with it.
So two concessions and four persuasions did the trick.
The Planning Inspectorate has published the Examining Authority’s recommendation report into the Wylfa nuclear power station, a few days after Horizon nuclear power withdrew its application, and it can be found here.
There are some interesting bits. Paragraph 3.4.7 – even though National Policy Statement EN-6 specifically covers Wylfa as a suitable site for a nuclear power station, the NPS does not apply because it is time limited to 2025 and this project would be delivered after that, so the decision is considered under section 105 of the Planning Act 2008 (no NPS) rather than s104 (with NPS).
Paragraph 7.11.9 – the ExA does not conclude that there are imperative reasons for overriding public interest in the project going ahead, in the context of compensation for harm to tern breeding areas. This is even though the National Policy Statement does conclude that there are IROPI. Para 19.17.9 – impacts on biological diversity ‘weigh very heavily against’ making the DCO.
Paragraph 17.3.2 – the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch gets a mention but it is abbreviated to its first 19 letters.
Paragraph 19.3.1 – the ExA is satisfied that funding and compensation have been properly accounted for, through articles 82 and 83 of the draft Development Consent Order, but that the then suspension of the project by Hitachi created uncertainty and that was an important and relevant matter.
Paragraph 20.10.3 – the ExA considers that a compelling case in the public interest has been demonstrated for the project. So does that mean you don’t need any money as long as you have articles preventing you from carrying out the development until funding is in place? The proposed DCO does have two such articles (82 and 83) instead of the usual one.
Paragraph 19.5.3 – while the project would help achieve some socio-economic goals it would undermine others (given the pressure on housing, and tourist accommodation in particular, during construction). Paragraph 19.17.5 – the ExA was not convinced by the evidence presented on the need for additional accommodation. Paragraph 8.4.1 – of an estimated 9000 workers, 2000 were estimated already to live in the area, 4000 would be accommodated on a site campus and the remaining 3000 would be absorbed in local accommodation; the last figure was the controversial one, with the Welsh Government holding out on the impacts of accommodation in the local area.
Paragraph 19.12.4 – the impact on Sites of Special Scientific Interest mean that the applicant has not achieved good design.
Paragraph 19.17.6 – the lack of certainty around the grid connection works weighed against granting consent to a small extent.
Paragraph 20.10.6 – a statutory undertaker’s name has been redacted.
The next decision that is due is for the Kemsley power upgrade, by 19 February 2021.