929: New year, new delays and competition result
Today’s entry reports on some miscellaneous nationally significant infrastructure project news.
More decision delays
After reporting two delays to decisions on Development Consent Order (DCO) applications in the last blog entry, there are another two to report for this one: decisions on the East Anglia Offshore wind farms, One North and Two have been delayed from 6 January to 31 March. According to the statement in Parliament this is ‘to allow an opportunity for further information including in respect of protected species and construction flood risk mitigation to be provided and considered’.
The next decision now due is on the already delayed Aquind interconnector, which has a deadline of 21 January.
In a first for a DCO application, the Examining Authority for the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station has asked for an extension to the three-month reporting period.
The request can be found here. Essentially it asks for a six-week extension for two reasons: the number and lateness of material changes made by the Applicant to the application (16) and ‘unexpected health issues’ during the reporting period.
A mere eight days later, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) granted the request via this letter.
With what can only be described as considerable chutzpah, the Secretary of State ticks the Planning Inspectorate off for this delay and asks that future timetables are adhered to ‘so that developer confidence in the certainty of timings under the Planning Act process for Nationally Significant Energy Infrastructure Projects is not eroded’.
A couple of statistics: this is the first time that a reporting period has ever been requested to be extended out of 114 reporting periods. Secondly, of the 16 BEIS decisions due in the last two years, eight – half – have had the decision stage extended. For the DfT it is 10 out of 17, more than half, giving a total of 18 delays out of 33. Don’t get me started on the relative lengths of the delays.
Anyway, the Sizewell reporting period has been extended from 14 January to 25 February.
Scoping opinion withdrawal
In a second unusual development a developer has withdrawn its application for a scoping opinion.
RWE applied for a scoping opinion for the Dogger Bank South offshore windfarms on 8 November 2021. On 14 December it emailed the Planning Inspectorate to withdraw its request, via this letter.
The Planning Inspectorate ‘accepted’ the request two days later via this letter. It noted that the withdrawal was towards the end of the 42-day period in which they had to respond (36 days) and so involved abortive work.
I don’t know the reasons for this request but I take the opportunity to mention the Finch case, which although a town and country planning case rather than a DCO one involved consideration of the equivalent obligation that an environmental statement be ‘based on’ any scoping opinion. Paragraphs 93 and 94 of the judgement suggest this is not at all a strict obligation.
On to the competition results. The competition appears to have been harder than usual this year as I got a few entries but only one was correct. Congratulations go to Steve Purnell of ERM, who wins a bottle of champagne!
The competition involved a considerable amount of misdirection; to solve it one had to ignore the answers but find the project names hidden in the text of the slightly oddly-worded questions, as follows:
The initial letters of the names spell the answer: THICKTHORN. I hope you enjoyed it (or are now kicking yourself) even if you didn’t get it right!