909: National Policy Statement current status
Today’s entry reports on the current status of the suite of National Policy Statements.
Parliament went into recess yesterday (22 July 2021) with a final announcement on the National Networks National Policy Statement (NPS), just after the energy NPSs had their tenth birthday. Here is a summary of where we are with all of them.
By way of reminder, NPSs set out the need for different types of economic infrastructure, and the impacts that applicants should assess, inspectors should examine and secretaries of state should consider.
There are 12 designated NPSs currently in existence. Here they are in order of designation.
Overarching Energy, Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy, Oil and Gas Supply and Storage, Electricity Networks, and Nuclear Power: designated on 19 July 2011.
On 14 December 2020, the government committed to reviewing these six NPSs, with an aim of completing the review by the end of 2021. So far no drafts have yet emerged but rumours are that a consultation will be launched in early August.
Legal challenges: the Good Law Project did challenge an earlier decision not to review the NPss but dropped it once they were to be reviewed.
Ports: designated on 26 January 2012.
On 19 March 2021, the government issued a freeports policy document which committed to considering whether to review the Ports NPS, so we are not quite at the stage of actually reviewing it. There has been no news since then.
Waste Water: designated on 9 February 2012.
Despite this NPS being over nine years old and it saying that it is expected to be reviewed every five years (para 1.1.5), there is no commitment to review it.
Hazardous Waste: designated on 6 June 2013.
Despite this NPS being over eight years old and it saying that it is expected to be reviewed every five years (para 1.1.4), there is no commitment to review it.
National Networks: designated on 14 January 2015.
On 14 July 2021, the government issued the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which committed to a review of this NPS, which covers road, railway and rail freight projects. More detail was forthcoming in a Written Statement from Grant Shapps MP yesterday, which can be found here. The statement says that the aim is for the review to commence later this year and complete in spring 2023.
Legal challenge: the Transport Action Network was preparing a challenge to require a review of the NPS but I don’t think it was actually made.
Airports: designated on 26 June 2018.
This NPS is just over three years old (already) and the government is not planning to update it.
Legal challenge: the designation of the NPS was challenged by several parties, who were unsuccessful in the High Court, successful in the Court of Appeal and unsuccessful in the Supreme Court. Since then, the Good Law Project has been threatening to challenge the non-review of the NPS, but I don’t think they have actually made a challenge yet.
Geological Disposal: designated on 17 October 2019.
The newest NPS, covering the long-term disposal of nuclear waste, is less than two years old and is not being considered for review.
Water Resources: not designated.
The final NPS on water resources (reservoirs, desalination plants etc.) was consulted on in January 2019 and then … nothing happened. For nearly two and a half years, the draft has stayed a draft. That doesn’t mean DCO applications cannot be made, though, they will just have to make their own need cases.
Other suggestions: not in draft.
There have been other suggestions over the years – an overarching cross-sector NPS, a business and commercial NPS, a major housing NPS (which would need the law to be changed to allow such applications) and an Oxford-Cambridge Arc NPS, to name a few, but these have not had any traction so far.
Incidentally a consultation was launched this week (there is always a flurry of announcements and consultations at the end of the Parliamentary term) on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which can be found here. Many were expecting a spatial framework for the Arc but it is a consultation on what it should contain – no particular hurry, then.
One bit infuriates me at paragraph 5.8. The government is:
‘examining (and where appropriate, developing) the case for new and/or expanded settlements in the Arc, including options informed by possible East West Rail stations between Bedford and Cambridge and growth options at Cambridge itself’.
Let’s see where the stations are and then plan settlements around them? No! People are served by infrastructure, not the other way round.