On 19 July the series of National Policy Statements on energy were officially designated by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne. This followed public consultation, Parliamentary scrutiny and, finally, formal Parliamentary approval.

Of particular interest, and perhaps most controversial, the NPS for Nuclear Energy lists the following sites as potentially suitable for the development of new nuclear power stations: Bradwell, Essex; Hartlepool, Borough of Hartlepool; Heysham, Lancashire; Hinkley Point, Somerset; Oldbury, South Glos.; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; Wylfa, Isle of Anglesey.  

The implications of the designation are as follows.

  • There follows a six week period, expiring near the end of August, during which the NPSs are vulnerable to judicial review proceedings. At the time of writing, there is no news of any such challenge.
  • The NPSs now comprise the framework against which applications for nationally significant infrastructure energy projects must be determined. Proposals conforming will normally be approved, whilst for schemes failing to comply the reverse is true.
  • In theory, such applications will be determined by the Infrastructure Planning Commission in its own right, rather than by the Secretary of State. In practice, very few applications are likely to reach the end of the process before the IPC is incorporated within the Planning Inspectorate in April 2012, at which point the final decision-making power will transfer to the Secretary of State.  

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Planning Commission, soon to be abolished by provisions in the Localism Bill, has for the first time completed the process of examining an application for development consent in relation to a nationally significant infrastructure project. A decision on the application for an energy from waste plant in Bedfordshire is expected in October.