896: Windfarm DCO delays and French flights
Today’s entry reports on delays to DCO applications for offshore windfarms.
There have recently been some delays to active offshore windfarm Development Consent Order (DCO) applications. Time to examine what is going on.
First, the examinations into the East Anglia One North and East Anglia Two offshore windfarms have been extended by three months, from the usual six to nine months and will now finish by 6 July 2021.
What happened was that the case manager emailed the Secretary of State on 9 February to ask for a four-month extension to the examination. I haven’t seen that email, but the letter amending the timetable said it was due to three reasons: the impact of COVID-19 on the ability for parties to engage in the examination, the impact of COVID-19 on the ability for the Examining Authority to examine the application, and, perhaps significantly, the additional strain of holding two related examinations simultaneously.
The examination was due to finish on 6 April, and the Secretary of State did not respond to the extension request until 30 March, deciding to allow an extension of three rather than four months. The letter granting the request can be found here.
Secondly, the decision on the Norfolk Boreas DCO application that was due on Monday 12 April has been delayed, to an as yet unknown date. This is the ‘sister’ project to the Norfolk Vanguard application, which was granted but then quashed by the High Court, partly due to the (perceived lack of) assessment of cumulative effects from Vanguard and Boreas. Incidentally, the East Anglia and Norfolk windfarms are all in the same Crown Estate Round 3 zone, the so-called ‘Norfolk Bank Zone’.
Delays generally are reducing, but having had a look at recent application timescales I wondered whether offshore windfarms were particularly affected. It turns out they are – the last offshore windfarm application to be decided on time was Navitus Bay on 11 September 2015, which was refused. The last one to be granted on time was not much earlier, to be fair, the Dogger Bank Teesside A&B windfarm application on 5 August 2015 (the ‘B’ windfarm is now called the Sofia windfarm). That was still over 5 1/2 years ago, though. I think that is enough to declare a trend – offshore windfarm applications are particularly susceptible to delays. There are a number of ways this could be remedied and I hope it is a focus of the review of the Planning Act 2008 regime that has just started.
Construction of the Dogger Bank A windfarm has started onshore with the cable being installed, but construction of the Sofia windfarm has not yet started.
French climate change measures
In other news, the French Parliament has voted to ban internal flights where the journey could be made by public transport (ie train) in under two and a half hours. This is part of a long series of measures recommended by a commission on climate change and contained in this Bill (in French, but Google will probably offer to translate it for you).
The proposals I thought particularly interesting that we might consider are (and apologies if I haven’t translated the gist correctly):
- a ban on advertising fossil fuels (clause 4);
- local authorities can ban mail with no named addressee (clause 9);
- spare parts must be made available for five years after a new product stops being sold (clause 13);
- low emission zones for all agglomerations of 150,000 people or more by 2024 (clause 27);
- the ban on short domestic flights mentioned above (clause 36);
- buildings with the lowest energy ratings must be improved if they change hands (clause 40);
- leases cannot be renewed or rents increased for buildings with the lowest energy ratings (clause 41); and
- protected natural areas are to cover 30% of the country (clause 56).
A net zero strategy is to be published later this year in advance of the COP26 (global climate change) conference in Glasgow in November. We shall see if it equals or exceeds the French efforts.