This is entry number 228, published on 29 March 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today’s entry reports on progress with the two applications being considered by the IPC.

On Friday, the objection period closed for the second project that the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is considering, an energy from waste plant that would produce 77MW of electricity. The project has the same promoter as the first project, Covanta Energy, and this time it is to be near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, the first project being proposed for Bedfordshire.

Although both projects consume waste, they are nationally significant infrastructure projects because of the electricity they will produce, the threshold being a capacity of 50MW for an onshore facility of any kind.

Brig y Cwm

The Merthyr Tydfil project is known as 'Brig y Cwm' (top of the valley) and its project page on the IPC website is here.

I understand that the number of online objections to the project has exceeded the 1004 that were made against the Bedfordshire one. That total, however, does not include 6000 hard copy objections that were delivered to the IPC's offices in Bristol by community groups last week, who also staged a demonstration, so that's over 7000 objections in total.

[Update 31 March: I have been told that the IPC are still counting the objections and that they have exceeded 10,000]

I said when the first objection period ended, and I will say again that any misgivings about the new regime not giving a voice to objectors can finally be put to rest. One of the main criticisms of the new regime was that local people would no longer have a say in an infrastructure project application. Such a claim overestimates the extent to which they had a say previously, and underestimates the extent to which they have a say now.

The IPC has tried, and patently succeeded in, publicising upcoming applications through its 'outreach programme'. Indeed this has been to the dissatisfaction of some promoters, who contrast this with the IPC's reluctance to give advice to them. That reluctance partly stems from the prohibition on giving advice on the merits of an application, which is being lifted by the Localism Bill.

The Brig y Cwm objections are currently being processed by the IPC for validity (and presumably transcribing 6000 written objections is no mean task either). They may therefore take a week or two to appear on the IPC website. Representations can be rejected for being vexatious, frivolous, relating to policy in a national policy statement, or relating to compensation for compulsory purchase, so they must be vetted by the IPC, who will also 'redact' any personal information from the published versions and remove anything it considers offensive.

If I may make a technical plea, it is for the webpage that contains the representations not to have to load them all before it displays the first 10. The 1004 Bedfordshire objections take 25 seconds to load on my PC, so 7000 objections will presumably take about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, Covanta Energy must certify to the IPC by 4 April [update: no, it's 8 April, actually] that it has complied with the requirements to publicise its application, whereupon the IPC will appoint a single Commissioner or a panel to consider it, and set a date for the preliminary meeting. I would expect a panel of three commissioners to be appointed, as for the other application for a similar project.

Rookery South

Meanwhile, the current round of written representations for the Bedfordshire project (known as Rookery South) ended yesterday. Three kinds of representation were able to be made:

  • comments on others' representations  
  • comments on the two Local Impact Reports, and  
  • answers to the panel of IPC commissioners' first list of questions.  

Of 1004 initial representations originally made last year (see this blog entry), only 95 detailed representations followed by the 28 February deadline. It is these 95 that may be commented on in the first category above.

Local Impact Reports (LIRs) are local authorities' analysis of the impact of the project on their areas. They are the only documents specifically named by the Planning Act as having to be taken into account when the decision on the application was made. Two LIRs were submitted for this application, here and here, as the project straddles a local authority boundary. The Brig y Cwm application also happens to straddle a local authority boundary. The two councils concerned also submitted detailed objections to the application separately.

The IPC has asked 19 questions about the application, which can be found at Annex C to this document. They range from national and local policy questions, the provision of combined heat and power (CHP) to possible drafting errors with the development consent order. They are principally aimed at the promoter, Covanta Energy, but anyone is invited to answer them.

This second round of responses will appear on the IPC website shortly (you wait ages for representations and then two lots come along at once). The next stage is for the panel of commissioners to publish a second round of questions, which it has said it will do by 11 April.