This is entry number 105, first published on 25 February 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. For more information on our work on major projects, clickhere.

Today's entry continues previous reports into the Parliamentary scrutiny of the energy National Policy Statements.

Two previous blog entries (here and here) have reported on the first few sessions of the Energy and Climate Change Committee's examination of the six energy National Policy Statements (NPSs). Today I summarise the salient points I took from the 27 January and 3 February sessions. The delay is due to the transcripts only just being published on the Parliament website. Links to the transcripts and video recordings are at the end.

Energy and Climate Change Committee, 27 January 2010 a.m.

First session witnesses: Brian Seabourne, E.On; Paul Spence, EDF; Simon Wells, RWE Npower; David Porter, Association of Electricity Producers.

The witnesses thought that there should be more in the NPS of the weight to be given to the need for energy infrastructure (other than nuclear).

They conceded that the requirement to meet demand at all times was overstated (as Prof. Helm had said).

They agreed that the IPC should not look at carbon impacts.

At this point the transcript and the video have a euphemistic 'suspension of the committee' for two minutes. This was actually because there was a mini-demonstration by anti-nuclear demonstrators, who were thrown out. Ironically their point was lack of consultation when their colleagues were being interviewed that very afternoon.

The witnesses were worried that Carbon Capture Readiness (CCR) would constrain developments unnecessarily, e.g by having to provide more space for it than would eventually be needed.

They agreed that the Nuclear NPS should be locationally specific and the others shouldn't.

They thought that DECC had done a good job on consultation.

They thought that the eventual nuclear waste repository project should be considered by the IPC (not at the time of the nuclear applications, but as its own application).

They thought that CO2 pipelines for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS - what CCR is ready for) should be included in the NPS.

On whether the NPSs should advocate the mix of energy, they thought that restricting one type of energy would not advance another one, so no point in doing so.

Second session witnesses: Sarwjit Sambhi, Centrica; Keith MacLean, Scottish and Southern; Rupert Steele, Scottish Power; Jane Smith; UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

The views of these witnesses were similar to those at the first session.

The witnesses thought that the CCR requirement for gas and biomass power stations would prevent them from coming forward because the technology had not yet been invented - so how could it be shown to be CCR?

They wanted Dungeness to be brought back into the Nuclear NPS.

They wanted the definition of associated development to be included in the NPSs (what can be included in an application as well as the main infrastructure), but actually there is a DCLG guidance note devoted to it.

Oddly, throughout this transcript, the word 'Committee' seems to have been deleted wherever it occurred, so it just says 'Energy and Climate Change Select' and 'on Climate Change'.

Energy and Climate Change Committee, 27 January 2010 p.m.

First session witnesses: Carl Clowes, Pobl Atal Wylfa B (People Against Wylfa B); Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley.

The afternoon session was the turn of the anti-nuclear brigade, who mainly gave rather long statements rather than there being a question and answer session. I summarise the gist of the statements made below.

Apparently the new generation of nuclear power stations will produce waste twice as radioactive than at present.

Anglesely is unsuitable for a nuclear power station because of problems with evacuation. The existing nuclear power station has led to a decline in Welsh speaking there because of its staffing (an interesting social impact). Anglesey is also unsafe in seismic terms.

The Hinkley consultation meeting was only attended by 24 people, but another meeting is to be held.

The IPC should be able to consider nuclear waste.

Second session witnesses: Marianne Birkby, Radiation Free Lakeland; Pauline Preston and Imitaz Mohamed, Kirksanton Residents; Jenny Hawkes, Braystones Residents.

These were representatives of the communities near the potential Cumbrian nuclear sites.

The Sellafield consultation meeting was difficult to attend because of recent snow.

There are substantial carbon emissions at Sellafield because of gas being burnt there.

The nuclear industry pays hush money to radiation victims.

Ms Birkby read out the first poem to be given in evidence: Ticking Boxes by a late Sellafield foreman.

The way Kirksanton (the only completely greenfield site) was nominated was flawed.

There has been no socio-economic study undertaken.

The Braystones residents laid into Jamie Reid, the local MP (verbally).

Third session witnesses: Peter Lanyon, Shut Down Sizewell; Varrie Blowers and Barry Turner, Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (Blackwater is near the proposed site of Bradwell in Essex).

The decision to have a new reactor at Sizewell had already been taken.

The format of the consultation meeting there was poor.

The Bradwell site is by a shallow estuary which will mean problems when it takes water for cooling. Oyster beds will be affected.

BANNG's petition was more extensively known about than the government's consultation.

There was a severe earthquake in the area in 1884.

There were claims of too little consultation (on the NPS) and too much consultation (on other things at the same time).

Sea level rise had not been considered properly in the NPS.

Energy and Climate Change Committee, 3 February 2010 a.m.

First session witnesses: David Brock, Planning and Environment Law Committee of the Law Society; Tim Corner QC, Planning and Environment Bar Association.

The lawyers gave evidence. There was discussion about the 'democratic deficit' caused by the IPC, but that wasn't really a legal question.

The theme of the day seemed to be that because 10 nuclear sites were identified and there was a need for 10 nuclear power stations, then the need case for each site would overwhelm any adverse impacts and they would be bound to be approved. The committee members kept putting this to the witnesses, but it was more or less denied.

Tim Corner thought that when projects affected European (nature) sites there would have to be a discussion on need before the IPC, despite the NPS trying to deal with it in advance. He thought that there should be more evidence on need (echoing Morag Ellis at the Ports NPS hearings).

David Brock said that paragraphs 4.11, 4.31. 4.42 and 4.43 of EN-1 and 3.42 and 3.43 of EN-6 should not be there as they restated the law. He suggested that actual policy should be separated from comment with some sort of highlighting.

Finally, David Brock raised the failure to consult neighbouring authorities on the nuclear sites. The committee seemed to be aware of this already.

Second session witnesses: Tony Grayling and Joe McHugh, Environment Agency (EA); Rob Cooke and Rosie Manise, Natural England (NE).

Both environmental bodies said that the NPSs should be better on environmental mitigation issues.

Rosie Manise felt that there should be an even more overarching document setting out the whole context for energy.

There was a discussion about engaging communities by making NPSs more locationally specific.

We got the horse's mouth as to why Dungeness had been dropped (it was NE's advice): Dungeness is a very special place and is the result of 5000 years' worth of interaction between the sea and land and it is simply not possible to recreate it anywhere else.

We were treated to the image of sea level rises isolating the coastal nuclear power stations which would appear like sandcastles amongst the rising tide.

Both EA and NE seemed to welcome a hierarchy of energy types, but not types within renewable energy.

The EA suggested that a sequential test (similar to siting retail development) be used for Combined Heat and Power.

NE urged that in the rush to decarbonise, we didn't destroy the underlying eco-system with our developments.

There should be more said and done about energy efficiency, which would reduce the need for new infrastructure.

The Appraisal of Sustainability should have more on cumulative effects in it.

CO2 pipelines should be addressed in the NPSs for CCS.

The witnesses were concerned that the IPC could not investigate the sources of biomass fuel.

Finally Paddy Tipping MP suggested that we should decide who was more interesting between the lawyers and environmentalists. I am hurt by the suggestion that the answer is obvious.

Energy and Climate Change Committee, 3 February 2010 p.m.

First session witnesses: Sir Mike Pitt, Ian Gambles and Pauleen Lane, IPC.

It was the turn of the Infrastructure Planning Commission itself to give evidence. Sir Mike is the Chair, Pauleen a vice-chair and Ian the Director of Strategy.

Sir Mike said that most projects would have a single commissioner - except possibly nuclear power stations.

There was a suggestion that the IPC would try to get round the prohibition on considering carbon impacts by taking account of advice from the Committee on Climate Change on carbon impacts, i.e. do it indirectly. The same might also happen to radioactive waste by taking account of advice from the nuclear waste regulation bodies.

It was admitted that the IPC could not stop people giving evidence on need. In its annual report, the IPC would mention any perceived conflict between government policies, e.g. need versus carbon impacts - another way it might make its feelings known on carbon impacts.

The IPC erred in its views on receiving applications for nuclear sites other than the 10 in the NPS - it can consider them, but the Secretary of State would decide them. The NPS itself declares them to be 'outside the NPS' rather than 'contrary to the NPS' at paragraph 3.2.6.

Sir Mike supported the idea of more funding for local authorities so that they could discharge their Planning Act responsibilities effectively.

Second session witnesses: Richard Kemp and Phillip Mind, Local Government Association (LGA).

There should be more in the NPSs on site selection, and there was not enough on clustering effects (i.e. where additional infrastructure grew up alongside the main project).

As with many witnessess, when it was put to them about a local authority vetoing an access road for a nuclear power station because they didn't like the nuclear power station, they did not consider the concept of 'associated development'.

There should be more on social and economic effects in the NPSs.

Local authorities should get more money, and the best source of that was either the IPC or compulsory Planning Performance Agreements with developers (compulsory to remove suggestions of bias).

As with many other witnesses - and the Conservative Party - they thought that there should be an overarching national spatial strategy.

There is one more session to report on 10 February and then we move south to the House of Lords.

27 January a.m. -video recording

27 January p.m. -video recording

3 February a.m. - video recording

3 February p.m. - transcript - video recording