Today’s entry reports on various Planning Act-related developments.

After rather a long gap, for which apologies – work as well as Christmas getting in the way – here is the first blog entry of 2019.

DCO update 

The first application of the year for development consent was made on 2 January, for improvements to junction 6 of the M42 near Birmingham. That takes the total number of live applications to a round 25, so there is no sign of a plateau to round off the recent increase yet. The next decision isn’t due until 20 February (Tilbury2) so there’s some more time for the total to go up even further. Will it equal or even overtake the current record of 27 applications, achieved in August 2014? It’s terribly exciting, isn’t it?

Planning Act expansion 

The heralded expansion of the Planning Act regime to include additional water projects has come to pass. A statutory instrument came into force on 9 January and can be found here.

The existing thresholds for dams and reservoirs and for water transfer have been altered, and a new category of nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP), desalination plants, has been added.

Further expansion

On 14 January, the government launched a consultation on whether electricity storage should be defined as another expansion of the NSIP regime. It is currently not entirely clear whether storage is already included in the ‘electricity generation’ type of NSIP – it does provide electricity to the grid, but does it really generate it?

The consultation document clears this up by saying that following the publication of the Smart Energy Plan, when parliamentary time allowed, ‘electricity would be defined as a form of generation’. I’m being sarcastic, I think that on that key point they have omitted the word ‘storage’, whoops! And will parliamentary time allow anything? Anyway it goes on to say that:

‘electricity storage means a generating station or any part of a generating station that generates electricity from stored energy. Stored energy is energy that is converted form electricity, and then stored for the purpose of its future reconversion into electricity.’

That’s OK if you’ve already defined electricity storage as a form of generation, otherwise a battery that only took energy form the grid and stored it might not count.

So what is being proposed? First, a threshold of 50MW (ie. the same as the onshore electricity generation threshold for other types of generation) for storage projects on their own. Also, if something is a bit of storage and a bit of non-storage generation, then one or other has to be over 50MW before it becomes an NSIP rather adding them together (eg a combination of 30MW storage and 30MW non-storage would not be an NSIP), in contrast to the ports threshold.

Although it is discussed, there is nothing in the proposal about how long the storage project can supply electricity at that rate, so even if it’s just for five minutes it will be an NSIP if it supplies more than 50MW.

One last thing: onshore wind was removed from the scope of the Planning Act 2008 a few years ago, and it is proposed that a storage-plus-onshore-wind project will not come within it either. No sneaking your onshore wind turbines in by sticking a battery on them!

The consultation document can be found here.

The consultation runs until 25 March.

Willing communities sought 

In other news, Radioactive Waste Management Ltd has launched a search for a community prepared to accept longterm geological disposal of nuclear waste in their area, a project (and test boreholes for which) that was recently added to the Planning Act as yet another new NSIP. See the website for more details.

Competition result

Finally, I’m sure you’ve been waiting with bated breath as to the solution and results of the Christmas blog competition.

To solve the puzzle, each pair of pictures differed by one letter. The pictures were dorm / Dora, pan / pin, can / car, cross / crops, pests / pesos, foot / fort and van / vat. The letter that was different in the first word of each pair spells MANSTON and the letter that was different in the second word of each pair spells AIRPORT, which is therefore the solution.

The virtual hat has produced Toby Barker of Camargue as the winner, congratulations Toby! Some champagne will be winging its way over to you shortly. Thank you to everyone who took part, I hope you enjoyed it.