This is entry number 176, first published on 15 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 reports on the expected launch date of a second consultation round on the energy National Policy Statements.
Six National Policy Statements (NPSs) in the field of energy are expected to be launched for a second round of consultation on Monday. These NPSs are half of a suite of twelve such statements, which are to form the basis for considering applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects under the Planning Act regime. The two main functions they perform are to set out the need for the infrastrucutre, and to identify impacts that the promoters should assess and the decision-maker should consider.
The six NPSs are: Overarching Energy (EN-1); fossil fuel electricity generation (EN-2); renewable electricity generation (EN-3); gas and oil infrastructure (EN-4); overhead electric lines (EN-5) and nuclear power (EN-6).
The government announced that there would be a second round of consultation back in July (press release). Earlier this week there was an unplanned release of the new consultation website (see previous blog entry), but the official start of the re-consultation is now imminent.
On 9 November 2009, seven NPSs were issued in draft for the first time, six in the field of energy. That consultation lasted until 22 February this year, and more than 3000 responses were received. These are still visible on the DECC website, but that's another story.
On 18 October 2010, revised drafts of the six energy NPSs will be published and a new round of consultation will open until 24 January 2011. This is a week less than before, but is still a generous 14 weeks - albeit including Christmas - compared with the Cabinet Office recommendation of 12 weeks. Given that responses to the further consultation are urged to be on the changes to the NPSs rather than the content that did not change (optimistically, perhaps), that should be ample time. And you have five days' more notice of the changes, following the previous blog entry!
Overlapping with the original public consultation, between 6 January and 10 February, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee of the House of Commons held ten evidence sessions into the six draft NPSs. Witnesses from a wide range of interests, from energy companies to community groups opposed to nuclear power stations in their areas appeared before the committee, and in March the committee produced a report of its findings, which can be found here, summarised and analysed in this blog entry.
It is not yet known whether the Select Committee will conduct any further evidence sessions into the revised NPSs, but I would think that it would be unlikely to pass up the opportunity. The Planning Act requires Parliamentary scrutiny of the original draft, but didn't contemplate that revised drafts would not be issued for a year and would be the property of a new government of a different political persuasion, and so is silent on scrutiny of revised drafts.
The House of Lords, not having departmental select committees, held three debates in its Grand Committee on EN-1, EN-2 to 5 and EN-6, and then a debate on the floor of the House.
According to the consultation website prematurely released and then unreleased earlier this week, the government will publish two response documents - one to the public consultation, and one to the report of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and the Lords Grand Committee debates. There will also be an Apprasial of Sustainability and Habitats Regulations Assessment for each NPS, an Appraisal of Sustainability Monitoring Strategy (which is new) and a rivised Ijmpact Assessment (of adiministrative costs).
The government is planning for legal challenges to be made to the adoption ('designation') of the energy NPSs, and is not expecting them to be finally in place until later next year. It will be interesting to see whether any more consultation of local authorities has taken place or will take place on publicising the eight remaining sites named in the Nuclear Power NPS, as this was a vulnerability that the original draft suffered from.
The other NPSs
It was also announced at a conference this week that progress would be made on the seventh NPS that was issued in draft last November, the Ports NPS, following the comprehensive spending review that is to be revealed on Wednesday next week. Whether that will be a second round of consultation or not remains to be seen - there were only around 150 responses to it.
The timetable for the issue of the remaining five NPSs - on national networks (roads and railways), airports, waste water, hazardous waste and water supply - was due to be published 'later in the summer' but has yet to emerge. In a separate announcement, the Waste Water NPS was said to be planned for issue in draft this autumn.