This is entry number 179, first published on 22 October 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry analyses the original consultation and revised National Policy Statements.

The government launched a second round of consultation on the six energy National Policy Statements (NPSs) this week. It has also published responses and information about the first round of consultation, which makes interersting reading.

Responses to previous consultation

Consultation on the original draft National Policy Statements took place between November 2009 and February 2010. There is a document reporting on the statistics for the original consultation, which can be found here.

The percentage of answers given on each NPS was not surprising:

  • EN-6 - nuclear power: 53%
  • EN-5 - electricity pylons: 16%
  • EN-1 - overarching energy: 13%
  • EN-3 - renewable energy: 8%
  • EN-2 - fossil fuels: 6%
  • EN-5 - gas and oil infrastructure: 4%

Within EN-6, consultees were asked whether they agreed that of eleven sites nominated as potential new nuclear power stations, ten were suitable and one (Dungeness) was not. The numbers of responses on each site were interesting: Kirksanton far outweighed all the others, while the other site that was dropped in this new consultation round (Braystones) did not get that many responses.

  • Kirksanton - 1083 - more against than in favour
  • Dungeness - 352 - mostly 'unclear' whether for or against (many letters were actually against the expansion of nearby Lydd Airport)
  • Oldbury - 206 - more against
  • Hinkley Point - 131 - more against
  • Bradwell - 100 - more against
  • Sellafield - 93 - more in favour
  • Braystones - 92 - more against
  • Wylfa - 83 - more in favour
  • Sizewell - 77 - more in favour
  • Heysham - 69 - more in favour
  • Hartlepool - 68 - more in favour

The report says that there were 130 responses from local authorities, but by my reckoning that must include parish and town councils, because only about 40 appear to have been from district, county and unitary authorities, about 10% of the total.

Government response to consultation

The government has issued two response documents - one for the response the the public consultation and one to the Parliamentary scrutiny of the NPSs.

The public response document can be found here. The government has gone into careful detail on the responses to the public consultation in its 300-page report. I have not read all the responses, but it appears to deal with everything that was raised.

I can't resist mentioning that I've found a couple of misprints - do I get a prize? At paragraph 1.101 it uses the word 'intension' and at paragraph 1.105 it refers to 'EN-)'. There's something a bit wrong with paragraph 6.12 as well.

I'm not sure that I agree with the statement at paragraph 1.32 that 'onshore' electricity generation includes installations in estuaries. The Planning Act defines 'offshore' as 'in waters in or adjacent to England and Wales ...'. Surely the Severn Estuary is 'water adjacent to England and Wales'. If the document was right, it would lower the threshold for projects in estuaries to come within the Planning Act regime from 100MW to 50MW.

Paragraph 1.121 says that water or rail transport should be used in preference to road in EN-1, but EN-2 has been changed to prefer water-borne transport (only) for fuel and residues. I'm not sure why - I expect the Rail Freight Group will have something to say about that.

The Parliamentary response document can be found here. The government has addressed each of the Commons select committee's thirty recommendations and has responded to what it considers were the main issues raised in the Grand Committee debates in the House of Lords, and also the five motions that were debated on the floor of the House albeit withdrawn following the debate.

The government resists calls to favour one electricity generation type over another, have a spatial element in EN-1 to EN-5 (i.e. saying where development should go) and also addi a requirement for the IPC to assess the carbon output of any proposed project. CO2 pipelines for carbon capture and storage are declared to be outside the scope of the relevant NPS (EN-4) (but still within the Planning Act regime - the difference being that the government will make decisions on applications rather than the IPC). A 'road map' for the implementation of CO2 pipelines will be consulted upon later this year and included in EN-4 at a later date.

The response to recommendation 17 says that the NPS has been revised so that on-site 'temporary' storage of nuclear waste is not stated to be for as long as 160 years (although if as it says the permanent storage facility is not ready until 2130 and the first new power station comes online in 2018, that would be 112 years of onsite storage). The report also states that the long-term geological storage project is likely itself to be a project that comes under the Planning Act.

The possibility of having joint (i.e. Commons and Lords) consideration of the revised NPSs is left open. This will be for Parliament to decide, although would require a change to standing orders.

The revised National Policy Statements

I have already set out the main changes made to the NPSs, their appraisals of sustainability and their Habitats Regulations assessments, using the government's handy summaries. Here are one or two additional points that aren't mentioned in the summaries.

The need for energy infrastructure is updgraded in EN-1 from 'significant' to 'urgent' (I think we are now at defcon 2).

The main reasons that Kirksanton and Braystones were dropped from the list of nuclear sites were that they were considered not to be capable of development before 2025, but perhaps more importantly the need for power stations there was not considered to be enough to outweigh the effect on the Lake District National Park of building them.

The NPSs look further forward than they did before - to 2050 - by when in order to 'decarbonise' energy, electricity generation will probably need to triple from current levels.

The NPSs have not actually changed that much - the main changes are to the Appraisals of Sustainability, where the way alternatives have been dealt with has been changed significantly. This issue was the main complaint of many environmental organisations, and the changes will go a long way towards addressing their concerns (although they still probably won't like the conclusions reached).

Going forward

The public consultation now runs until 24 January 2011. Chris Huhne MP has said that the 'relevant date' for Parliamentary scrutiny is 31 January 2011, a week later. However according to the standing orders of the House of Commons, the government must be provided with any reports of select committees 39 days before that date, which in this case is 22 December 2010. The Energy and Climate Change Select Committee thus has two months to consider the drafts and produce a report. At least it only need focus on the changes made to the NPSs (and presumably the refusal to change the matters it wanted to be changed).