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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 907: NIPA conference, redetermination and other news

Today’s entry reports on the National Infrastructure Planning Association Conference focusing on Planning Act 2008 reform, news on redeterminations of development consent orders, biodiversity and a digital first.

NIPA conference

The National Infrastructure Planning Association duly held its annual conference virtually over two mornings this week. We were very pleased that the housing minister, Christopher Pincher MP, addressed the conference on the importance of infrastructure and on the national infrastructure planning reform programme. When asked about whether the regime should be extended to major housing developments (kudos for subjecting himself to questions), he cryptically said that he considered housing to be infrastructure (although his reasons why were more ‘social’ than ‘economic’ infrastructure). His letter to NIPA members has now been published on the government website here.

Robbie Owen and I presented the preliminary (and heavily summarised) results of a survey of members and non-members on the performance of the Planning Act 2008 regime. The areas that people are happiest with are acceptance, hearings and NSIP thresholds, and the areas with which they are least happy are statutory consultee engagement, the post-examination phase and changes to DCOs. You can still complete the survey here.

There were then presentations and a panel from representatives of the Planning Inspectorate and the four government departments with roles in the regime: excuse the abbreviations but MHCLG, DfT, BEIS and Defra. It was really good to see them all singing from the same hymnsheet on infrastructure.

The second day was devoted to workshops discussing specific areas: how to speed up the regime, how to make it more digital and how to make it greener, followed by particular issues affecting offshore wind and highways projects.

This feedback will be used directly by the government to inform the reform programme but will also be developed further by NIPA to come up with some concrete proposals. Incidentally, ‘faster, fairer, greener’ now seems to be ‘faster, better, greener’. Citius, melior, viridius!

Redetermination news

On 5 July the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued a letter on the matters on which he would like further submissions on the quashed Norfolk Vanguard offshore windfarm consent, initially just from the applicant. The letter can be found here.

There is a long list of matters to which the Applicant has four weeks to respond. The Secretary of State invited submissions on what the redetermination should cover, initially proposing it would just be the matter on which the DCO was quashed, ie the cumulative landscape and visual impacts of the onshore substation to be shared by the Vanguard and Boreas projects. Not surprisingly scheme opponents have sought to widen the redetermination and perhaps more surprisingly the Secretary of State has gone along with this to a great extent, although has decided not to reopen the examination.

From that one issue, submissions are now invited additionally on noise, lighting and water run-off cumulative impacts, the government’s review of offshore transmission, two nearby proposed windfarm extensions, and probably most seriously for the applicant, a whole load of habitats impacts, including the same ones that bogged down the Hornsea Three project for so long. Hornsea Four is mentioned at one point, did they mean that? I’m not sure how the Vanguard applicant, Vattenfall, is going to be able to provide in-combination assessments with a project that has yet to be applied for.

Contrast all that with the Manston Airport redetermination, whose DCO was quashed a day earlier. The Secretary of State has not invited submissions on what the redetermination should cover and has largely limited his ‘matters’ to the issues that were challenged (albeit not just the one that was conceded), plus an ‘any other matters’ catch-all. Submissions were due today (9 July). So although the first redetermination-related step was in relation to Vanguard, Manston appears to have overtaken it in terms of time. No news on the third expected quashing for A38 Derby Junctions; I suspect this is being held up at the High Court because it didn’t get to a court date and so no judge has been booked to look at it, which is frustrating.

*UPDATE* the High Court quashed the A38 Derby Junctions DCO on Thursday 8 July.

Digital and biodiversity news

Some other miscellaneous news. The first digital scoping report has been submitted for a nationally significant infrastructure project – the Simister Island highway project – it can be found here.

A PDF has also been submitted for those unable to use the digital version. A PDF is of course also digital in a sense, but the other version goes beyond an electronic copy of a printed document.

On 7 July the House of Lords passed the amendments to the Environment Bill that require nationally significant infrastructure projects to provide 10% net gain as it was already requiring town and country planning applications.

On the same day Natural England published Biodiversity Metric 3.0, which can be found here. It covers terrestrial and intertidal but not yet marine net gain and is the way before and after scores will be calculated to establish if 10% net gain will be achieved. This is going to be a very interesting area as it develops.

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