953: A DCO without requirements and other news
Today’s entry contains some more miscellaneous Planning Act 2008 news.
Sizewell delayed again
First, the decision on the Sizewell C nuclear power station DCO application, due on 8 July 2022, has been delayed again, but by just two more weeks. According to the written statement in Parliament announcing the delay, ‘this is to ensure there is sufficient time to allow the Secretary of State to consider the proposal’, which is a bit tautological. At least there is a Secretary of State.
This means it leapfrogs past what now becomes the next due decision, that for the first ever material change application, to the Able Marine Energy Park, whose two month decision period ends on 16 July 2022.
A DCO without requirements
The world of Development Consent Orders (DCOs) was rocked to its foundations this week when the DCO for the A66 highway improvements project was published. The application has not yet been accepted but the applicant, National Highways, has agreed that the documents can be published in advance of the acceptance decision. The draft DCO can be found here, and it does not contain any requirements, which is a first. Get your kicks on the A66 DCO drafting.
The project is a model for ‘Project Speed’ of speeding up infrastructure projects and this measure is the implementation of a speeded-up post-consent process. In fact it doesn’t completely get rid of the sorts of things that appear in requirements: article 53 requires the approval of a ‘second iteration Environmental Management Plan’ which must be substantially based on the ‘First iteration Environmental Management Plan’, one of the application documents (plus 22 appendices, many of which are drafts of plans on different topics). This in turn contains a register of environmental actions and commitments (REAC) which contains many entries that look a lot like requirements.
Still, it’s a radical departure from every other DCO on record and it will be interesting to see how it fares as it progresses. The DCO is nevertheless 283 pages long – favourite reference on a quick glance: ‘the site of the former Llama Karma Kafe’. Schedule 2 takes up over 100 pages, covering stopping up and re-provision of highways and means of access. The project is to dual 30km of single carriageway, after all.
The Energy Bill, implementing a raft of measures purportedly to implement the earlier British Energy Security Strategy, has been published and can be found here. It was going to be called the Energy Security Bill but the middle word has disappeared.
Despite that, it doesn’t do anything to the planning system, such changes already being embodied in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. The only tangentially-relevant provision is clause 226 which I think allows consideration of habitats impacts to be imposed on offshore oil and gas exploration and storage licences before they are granted.
The bill will have its second reading on 19 July 2022, two days before Parliament rises for the summer.
The Planning Inspectorate has issued its annual report and accounts, which can be found here.
There is a case study on the South Humber Bank DCO examination, mainly because site inspection was carried out by drone. And if anyone can explain Graph 17 to me on decision times on DCO applications, please let me know.
Contracts for difference
The results of the fourth round of contracts for difference were announced on 7 July 2022. This is where the government guarantees prices for electricity production to encourage investment in technologies with high upfront costs. The prices for different technologies was as follows (per megawatt hour):
- offshore wind: £37.35;
- onshore wind: £42.47;
- solar: £45.99;
- energy from waste: £45.99;
- remote island wind (ie onshore wind on an island at least 10km from the mainland): £46.39;
- floating offshore wind: £87.30; and
- tidal stream: £178.54.
The first contract for difference auction in 2015 included the East Anglia One windfarm at £119.89 per MWh, and onshore wind was generally £82.50, so the cost of these has come down substantially over time. The current wholesale gas price is £3 per therm, which by my calculations works out at £102 per MWh.
Offshore transmission network review
Finally, National Grid has published its ‘Pathway to 2030’ document, which sets out how future offshore windfarms, including the Round 4 and ScotWind Crown Estate windfarms, will have their connections coordinated, through what they call ‘Holistic Network Design’. The 18 windfarms will have 15 landing points (so not a huge saving on that front) but these will generally be further south than a direct connection would have involved (so longer offshore but shorter onshore) – see page 24 of the document.