974: Latest highway DCO decision and this year’s Christmas champagne competition
This week’s entry covers a highway DCO decision held over from last week and sees the launch of the blog’s annual competition to win a bottle of champagne.
A57 Link Roads decision
The Secretary of State made three decisions on 15-16 November 2022; two were reported in last week’s blog and here is the third.
- project: a new highway from junction four of the M67 to Woolley Bridge in Tameside;
- promoter: National Highways;
- application made: 28 June 2021;
- application decided: 16 November 2022, so just under 17 months;
- two inspectors: Stuart Cowperthwaite and Ian Dyer;
- 909 relevant representations: high;
- 24 written representations: average;
- 580 questions in the first round: quite high; unusually the Examining Authority published the questions in draft a week earlier and then added some more;
- six issue specific hearings (I’m counting hearings over two days as two hearings), two compulsory acquisition hearings and one open floor hearing: above average;
- three local impact reports: Tameside, Derbyshire and High Peak jointly, and the Peak District National Park Authority; and
- 889 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision: high.
I’ve read the decision letter so you don’t have to. Interesting points as follows.
Carbon issues were a significant part of the examination. It is noted that the Transport Decarbonisation Plan (p103) says that continued high investment in roads is necessary to ensure the continued functioning of the nation and to reduced congestion, which is a major source of carbon.
The cumulative impacts with a proposed ‘garden village’ called Godley Green also featured, but it was concluded that since the DCO came first, Godley Green would have to deal with cumulative impacts.
Traffic modelling was questioned but given the agreement of the highway authorities, it was considered acceptable, with the document stating:
‘It is not a precise science and is usually only a best estimate of the future operation of the network’.
Although there were no works in the Peak District National Park, the increase in traffic there counted significantly against the development, as there was a policy to avoid this.
The letter states that the Secretary of State has said (admittedly some time ago) that the review of the National Policy Statement will be complete by Spring 2023, but I doubt that deadline will be hit given that no draft has yet been forthcoming.
Non-motorised users (NMUs) are here referred to as WCH (walkers, cyclists and horse riders).
The development was concluded to have an indirect adverse effect on highway safety (at the A57 Snake Pass); however this can be attributed to the fact that the National Park Authority did not want average speed cameras to be installed, due to their visual impact.
Carbon emissions were calculated to be a maximum of 0.0033% of any carbon budget, and the defeat of the Net Zero Strategy in court was also noted. Although the aim of local policies to achieve net zero might be affected by the project, the NPS was regarded as the primary consideration (this might be different for a s105 decision).
On noise, percussive piling was proposed because of a geological fault line, but a requirement was added to the DCO to use percussive piling only if there was no alternative.
For the purposes of green belt assessment, the development was considered ‘local transport infrastructure’, but nevertheless harm would be caused to the green belt.
On the drafting of the DCO it does use the oft-refused wording of ‘materially new or materially worse’ – perhaps that can be accepted from now on, although the SoS says that because of the discussion during the Examination he ‘believes on this occasion it is appropriate to deviate from his usual position’.
Several provisions that were unprecedented and not sufficiently explained were removed.
Lower Thames Crossing
Whilst we can’t comment on the application in great detail as we are instructed and there is a whole examination to go, we wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate National Highways, the project team and our colleagues on the acceptance of the Lower Thames Crossing DCO application. The efforts of the Planning Inspectorate in not only accepting the application in the regulation time, but for the helpful advice provided over the preceding period by officials and specially-appointed inspectors are also commended. The project is National Highway’s multi-billion pound, flagship scheme, a tunnel connecting Kent, Thurrock and Essex. It comprises highway, overhead line, gas pipeline NSIPs. It may be the largest DCO application to date.
Champagne Christmas competition
Yes, it’s that time of year again! Have a go at this year’s Christmas competition and be in with a chance of winning a bottle of champagne.
This year you must solve the ten clues below; each answer has ten letters. List these in order to make a 10 x 10 grid of letters. Then use this to find as many words used in names of applied-for DCO project names as you can, wordsearch-style (ie forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards or diagonally) in your grid. The words can all be found in the ‘Application’ column of this page (one plural there is a singular in the grid).
Please send your answers to Angus Walker by close of business on Wednesday 11 January 2023. The winner will be the entrant who finds the most words. In the case of a tie, one winner will be drawn from a virtual hat. Good luck! This year’s competition is a homage to the style of amazing quiz-setter Frank Paul.
- Lycanthropes (10)
- Hubbubs, plural of old word for game also called ‘pitch-buttock’, anagram of ‘cello elvis’ (5-5)
- Leader of China, 1949-1976 (3,3-4)
- Largest object laid by any living bird (7,3)
- House Majority Leader in the US (until 3 January 2023) (5,5)
- Alliances of political parties for the purpose of government (10)
- Actor who starred in The Untouchables and Ocean’s Eleven (4,6)
- Adverb meaning ‘of noble training or family’, anagram of ‘heh glib dry’ (6-4)
- Actor who starred in the Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters (3,7)
- Last name of the 34th President of the US (10)
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