This is entry number 253, published on 23 June 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 the publication of the final versions of the six energy National Policy Statements.

This morning the final versions of the six energy National Policy Statements were published on the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) website.  I understand that they are due to be debated in the House of Commons on 18 July and approved ('designated') on 19 July.  Links to the 'versions for approval' and my mnemonics for remembering their code names are as follows:

Purpose and history

Here is a quick summary of the purpose and history of National Policy Statements (NPSs). NPSs are an element of the Planning Act regime, stating policy on need and the impacts that promoters should assess and the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) should consider.  Once finalised, their content cannot be questioned by an objector to a subsequent application, to cut down duplicated and wasted time in considering applications.

The first seven NPSs - Ports and six for energy - were published for consultation in November 2009.  Over 3000 responses were made to the energy NPSs.  They were republished for further consultation in October 2010, with the main changes being made to the accompanying 'appraisals of sustainability', although two of the ten sites for nuclear power stations were dropped.  An eighth NPS on Waste Water was published in November 2010.

While the current Planning Act regime does not include any Parliamentary approval of NPSs, from April 2012 the provisions of the Localism Bill will allow the House of Commons to disapprove of them.  Having said that, the government will voluntarily subject these energy NPSs to Commons approval.

Latest versions

A further 2500 consultation responses were received, although they have not been published yet.   The government's response to the consultation can be found here.  If you scroll down to page 151 of that document you will see a summary of changes that have been made.  They are mostly updates to reflect changes that have taken place in the last six months.  The only area that describes itself as a substantial change is on biomass sustainability, but I note that the IPC is told that it need not consider the Weightman Report on lessons to be learned from the Fukushima nuclear accidents.

Effect on applications

If the NPSs are indeed approved on 19 July, this may mean that the first application to be considered by the IPC could be decided by it, although it is a close run thing.  Currently, the examination period for the Rookery South energy from waste project is timetabled to end on 15 July, although it could last until 18 July, being six months and a day after the preliminary meeting on 17 January.

If there is an NPS in place, then the IPC has three months to decide the application, and if there isn't then it has three months to make a recommendation to the government, who then takes the decision in a further three months.  The Planning Act is not clear as to what happens if the NPS is finalised during the IPC's three month period.  It almost seems deliberate that the designation date of 19 July is one day after the end of the examination period for the application, but it is not clear if that will prevent the iPC from deciding the application.

My prediction of one decision by the IPC still holds, but of the two applications before it, it is the first rather than the second that is looking more likely.