Last week the Secretary of State approved the third ever project under the Planning Act 2008 and the second where Network Rail is the promoter.
This project is for a railway chord north of Doncaster ('the North Doncaster Rail Chord'). Like the other railway project to be approved, the Ipswich chord, it is designed to allow freight trains to cross a main passenger line more easily. Because the chord falls outside the original alignment of the railways concerned, it cannot rely on permitted development rights to be built and this means it is above the threshold for a rail project to be considered nationally significant.
The decision letter is here. As with the Ipswich order, the Secretary of State made a few amendments (only two substantive ones this time) further to the version recommended by the examining inspector who considered the application, Pauleen Lane - see paragraph 27 of the letter.
Next month will see the fourth anniversary of the Planning Act 2008 receiving Royal Assent. No other projects will be decided by then (the next will not be until February 2013), so in four years we will have had three consents, one of which has not resulted in a final order yet. I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to agree with Iain Liddell-Grainger MP's remark in Parliament last week that the Planning Act 2008 is "a good law that works well".
There will be a bit of a scuffle on the Planning Act victory podium because the first project to be given consent - the Rookery South energy from waste project - is still bogged down in Parliament and so has not fully emerged from the regime, whereas the two Network Rail projects will not have to undergo the same procedure.
Three MPs and three peers met on Wednesday to consider the Rookery South order. The two local authorities will take about three days (i.e. weeks - the committee only meets once a week) to present their case, so speed is not of the essence. The fast-tracked Growth and Infrastructure Bill is having its second reading on Tuesday and once it is enacted - next April is the aim - no other projects will have the same trigger to undergo this ordeal in the future.
Having considered the evidence as the self-appointed International Planning Act Committee I'm going to declare Network Rail as the winner of the gold medal. The Ipswich chord has cleared all the hurdles - there it is on www.legislation.gov.uk - whereas the Rookery South project has yet to jump over the last couple. Cue the Network Rail anthem ...