On 31 October 2011, EdF Energy applied to what was the Infrastructure Planning Commission and is now the Planning Inspectorate for consent to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset (Hinkley Point C).
Today, the lead inspector of a panel of five, Andrew Phillipson, has written to parties interested in the application to announce that the examination of the application has closed today, 21 September. The letter is here.
The examination took one day short of the maximum six months allowed. The panel of inspectors now have three months to make a recommendation to Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who then has a further three months to make a decision. That means that the decision whether or not to grant EdF Energy's application must be made by 21 March 2013.
When the inspectors make their recommendation it is not made public, although the fact that they have made a recommendation is. When the Secretary of State makes his decision, the reasons for the decision will be given, along with the inspectors' recommendation.
The examination continued up to the wire - the last request for information had a deadline of two days ago - but it is impressive that it has all been achieved within the six-month deadline. Everyone except the inspectors can now have a well-deserved rest.
Innovia challenge ends
In other news, I have learnt that last month Innovia Cellophane had their appeal to the Court of Appeal dismissed. Innovia is a landowner in Somerset whose land is proposed to be used for temporary accommodation for workers building the power station. The case was the issue about whether the temporary accommodation counted as 'dwellings' and therefore couldn't properly be the subject of an application under the Planning Act and in turn the landowner couldn't be compelled to let the promoter onto its land to survey it.
Ironically, time has marched on since the judicial review was first launched in June 2011. The Localism Act 2011 amended the Planning Act regime to extend the ability to require entry onto land for surveying beyond land expected to be subject to comuplsory purchase. The government has also hinted that housing might be added to the categories of nationally significant infrastructure project as part of the review of the regime categories and thresholds that they have decided to undertake. Both these features would make a future challenge along the same lines unlikely.
As one application ends, another starts. Apparently EdF Energy has taken the first step towards an application for a new nuclear power station at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast. The company has sent a draft of its Statement of Community Consultation to the relevant local authorities for comment. They have 28 days to respond, and the main preapplication consultation will be launched in November.