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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Planning Act 2008 / 916: DCO applications round-up

Today’s entry provides the latest news on various DCO applications.

There has not been a decision on a DCO since 19 February 2021, and the latest one that was due, on the Aquind interconnector application on 8 September 2021, has been delayed until 21 October 2021. If it is on time, the MetroWest railway project will be the next decision on 19 October 2021, making a gap of eight months. You have to go back to the gap between the first and second ever decisions in 2011 / 12 to find a longer one.

Unlike then, there are plenty of live applications – 30 to be precise. More than half – 16 – are transport (13 for National Highways, as we must now call them), one is business and commercial, one is hazardous waste and the other 12 are electricity generation.

Possibly increasingly, acceptance is by no means guaranteed, with the two most recent applications not being accepted or being withdrawn just before that happened: Net Zero Teesside (which has since been resubmitted and accepted) and the East Northants Waste Extension (which has been resubmitted and is in its second acceptance period).

The reasons for the non-acceptances can be found here and here respectively. I have to say I find the latter one odd as it was for not providing a book of reference when there was no compulsory acquisition, although it was acknowledged some parties whose land was not being acquired may have compensation claims (ie category 3).

The first material change application, to the Able Marine Energy Park DCO, has made some progress, with 14 relevant representations received. The Secretary of State has decided that an examination will be held (it can be dispensed with altogether) and has appointed a single inspector to examine it, Alan Novitzky. The appointment letter is here. Note that because different regulations are used, he is the Examining Body rather than the Examining Authority, shall we say ‘ExB’?

Examinations are now back on schedule, none having been extended since East Anglia One North and Two in July, although two-stage preliminary meetings are still happening. If the second stage is subsequently cancelled, does the examination start on the day it would have happened, or the day of the first stage? Discuss.

Last week I attended one of what I think were the first set of hybrid hearings, on the Sizewell C nuclear power project, where some (in fact most) people were virtual and some were in person. Four of the five inspectors were in person, but the one doing most of the questioning for the one I attended was remote. It worked very well, I have to say (at least for a remote person like me – very remote, in Greece!). Perhaps this is the way of the future, pandemic or not.

The applicant for Sizewell C, EdF Energy, made their nineteenth request for a non-material change on 3 September, nearly five months into the examination, to add a desalination plant to the application. The Examining Authority (ExA) accepted the change but said it was a material one. A new hearing is to be held on it just nine days before the end of the examination. The lengthy procedural decision accepting the change, which I think contains much of use for others considering changes, can be found here.

One convention the Sizewell ExA are using that I like is to refer to ‘e-pages’ in documents, which means not the page number printed on the document but the number of pages through the document you actually are on a PDF reader or similar, as usually reported at the top or bottom of the page by the reader. It saves a lot of faffing about and confusion where, say, documents have several appendices where page numbering restarts each time.

On another examination, into the Little Crow Solar Farm, a colleague has pointed out that the Examining Authority has suggested putting a cap on the electricity it can generate of 300MW. See e-page 10 of this document. I don’t know the details of this project but this would seem a disappointing development. The applicant is resisting it.

On decision-making, this letter has been published that says that if a transport DCO application has an energy NSIP in it as well, the decision will still be taken by the Secretary of State for Transport alone, albeit in consultation with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I don’t see any letter addressing the opposite situation of an energy DCO containing a transport NSIP.

There’s not been a great deal of progress on the newest category of application stage – redetermination. Summary of quashed DCOs by year to date: 2011 none, 2012 none, 2013 none, 2014 none, 2015 none, 2016 none, 2017 none, 2018 none, 2019 none, 2020 none, 2021 four. The latest with the four is as follows. On Manston we are waiting for the publication of an assessor’s report; on Norfolk Vanguard the ball is also in the Secretary of State’s court, where the applicant responded to a request from him on 25 August – having been given only two weeks; on A38 Derby Junctions all parties are invited to respond to the applicant’s comments on the statement of matters; and on A303 Stonehenge nothing has happened yet.

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