This is entry number 151, first published on 23 July 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.
Today's entry reports on the consultation on the Marine Policy Statement launched by Defra.
On Wednesday the government launched its consultation on a new Marine Policy Statement (MPS) for the seas around the UK. That it is issued by Defra gives a clue that it is more balanced between industrial development and protecting the environment that the National Policy Statements (NPSs) that have been issued to date.
How does it fit into the regime for authorising nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs), which projects will it apply to, and what does it say? Read on.
NSIPs in the sea
Of the sixteen types of NSIP, three can potentially be wholly or partly in the sea: generating stations, ports and airports. The most likely generating stations are wind farms, wave and tidal projects; most port development will impinge upon the marine environment; but 'Boris Island', the Mayor of London's pet project to build an airport in the Thames Estuary, is the only airport that might be built offshore.
The MPS covers the whole of UK territorial waters, although the Planning Act only covers offshore energy and ports in English and Welsh waters, and airports in English waters only.
MPS versus NPS
The MPS is akin to an NPS for projects below the thresholds set out in the Planning Act. For above-threshold projects, the MPS fits in to the Planning Act regime below NPSs. The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) (or other decision-maker) must have regard to the MPS, but the relevant NPS trumps it, since only applications that are in accordance with the NPS can be granted.
The Marine Management Organisation (see earlier blog entry) is the body responsible for authorising sub-NSIP projects in the marine area, and it will also make representations to the IPC on NSIP applications. The Government is supposed to issue guidance to it about what it can say, but this does not appear to have emerged yet.
Contents of MPS
The draft MPS is here. The MPS will sit above 'Marine Plans', which will act like development plans for areas of the sea. The sea around the English coast has been divided up into ten areas, each of which will have its own plan. A map of the areas can be found here. The Marine Plans have yet to be developed. They will be produced by the MMO on behalf of the UK Government once the MPS has been finalised.
Of particular interest to infrastructure planning are pages 44-55, which deal with 'potential impacts' and 'issues for consideration' for energy production and infrastructure development, and ports and shipping (no mention of airports, though). This section covers oil and gas exploration and production, offshore wind, tidal range, tidal stream and wave projects, offshore electricity networks, carbon dioxide capture and storage, shipping, and port development.
The MPS does defer to the NPSs on the need for energy and port infrastructure, and also repeats the need to strike a balance between benefits and adverse effects (it uses 'impacts' to mean both beneficial and adverse effects). Some adverse effects are set out in slightly different terms to the Renewable Energy NPS EN-3 and the Ports NPS. Developers of such projects should therefore read these sections before preparing their application documentation such as the Environmental Statement, and local authorities should check them when preparing their local impact reports.
The consultation closes on 14 October. There are different postal addresses and email addresses for responses from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, set out on page 11 of the consultation document.