On 5 April 2019, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Tees gas fired power station on Teesside.

Here are the facts and figures:

  • project: a 1700MW power station between Middlesbrough and Redcar;
  • promoter: Sembcorp Utilities, owners of a number of UK utility companies;
  • application made: 22 November 2017, meaning all applications up to the end of 2017 have been decided;
  • one inspector, Kevin Gleeson, his second appointment (and he has been appointed to two more since then);
  • 12 relevant representations, very low;
  • 2 written representations, the lowest ever;
  • 313 questions in the first round, above average;
  • no compulsory acquisition hearings, three issue specific hearings and no open floor hearings – low;
  • one Local Impact Report, from Redcar and Cleveland;
  • examination exactly six months, recommendation exactly three months, decision five days short of three months;
  • 504 days from application to decision, 16 1/2 months, average; and
  • 329 documents on the Planning Inspectorate web page on the date of the decision (not including the relevant representations), low.

As the project is over 300MW it is required to be ‘carbon capture ready’ (CCR). There was an argument about whether it had left enough space for this. A requirement was added limiting output to 1520MW until the CCR requirements for full operation could be demonstrated. There is quite a lot in the letter about inconsistencies between gross and net output figures.

On combined heat and power, the plant could provide it but there weren’t enough nearby customers. A requirement obliges the promoter to review the situation 12 months after the development is brought into use (it says requirement 21 in the letter but it’s 20).

On the stack height, there was an ability to reduce this if it would have no new or different environmental effects, but this was removed as there was no assessment of a lower stack height in the Environmental Statement. I would have thought that it could have been possible to assess a lower stack height later and still conclude it had no new or different environmental effects, but there you go.

The application did not contain any compulsory acquisition powers, and so there was no compulsory acquisition hearing, but there was no open floor hearing either, only the second time this has happened (the first being for the Kentish Flats offshore wind farm extension).

Unusually, and perhaps setting a precedent, certified documents are referred to in the Development Consent Order (DCO) by their ‘examination library’ code (eg APP-038, REP2-091).

It is also becoming common to include an article explicitly stating that the carrying out of development within the order limits authorised by planning permission would not constitute a breach of the DCO if it were for something other than the nationally significant infrastructure project part of the development authorised by the DCO (article 8 in this case).

This is the 70th DCO to have been granted in the first instance out of 75 applications to have been decided, and the 71st including the Preesall Gas Storage DCO, which was only granted after the initial refusal was overturned on a judicial review. That is a 93.3% or 94.7% success rate. Another five were withdrawn during the process, and one was not accepted for examination and not subsequently re-applied for.