This is entry number 136, first published on 28 May 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog.

Today's entry provides an update on projects expected to reach the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

There have been a few developments in the last couple of weeks on the nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) front. These are the projects for which applications have had to be made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) since 1 March. Despite there being no alternative authorisation route allowed for such projects, no applications have been made yet, and none is now expected until July.

Note that although the IPC is to be replaced in due course, it will survive for at least another year, and the regime it oversees is unlikely to change substantially, as previously reported.

New projects on the list

The number of projects on the IPC's list of ones it expects to receive has grown to 36, with the addition of the first two railway projects. These are a chord linking two existing lines at Shaftholme near Doncaster, and another at Ipswich. The promoter in both cases is Network Rail.

As the number of expected projects grows, the list of affected local authorities grows even faster, remembering that both authorities hosting proposed projects and also their immediate neighbours have roles to play. By my calculations no fewer than 237 local authorities will be affected by the 36 projects on the list. Watch this space for more detail on that!

Further delay to first projects

The two projects that had previously been first equal on the list of expected applications have both slipped by about six months. They are a biomass plant in Northumberland promoted by RES New Ventures, whose expected date of application has slipped from 1 June to the fourth quarter of 2010, and a windfarm in Carmarthenshire promoted by RWE Innogy, which has slipped from 1 June to 1 December 2010.

What are now the equal first projects are both pencilled in for applications on 1 July. One is a 132kV overhead line in near Neath in Wales promoted by Western Power Distribution, and the other is a windfarm in Denbighshire promoted by RWE Npower Renewables. I am afraid I don't hold out much hope of either of them meeting that deadline, as explained below.

What had previously been the bookies favourite for the first application now once again has the shortest odds: the proposed energy from waste (EfW) plant in Bedforshire promoted by Covanta, which has an estimated date of mid July.

Third and fourth formal pre-application consultation launched

There are three pre-application stages that must take place and one that need not but almost always will:

  • seeking an environmental impact assessment (EIA) screening opinion from the IPC (i.e. asking it whether EIA is needed) and/or seeking a scoping opinion from the IPC (i.e. asking it what EIA should be carried out) (this is the optional stage);
  • consulting a defined list of organisations and landowners on the application (the 'section 42 consultation');
  • consulting the general public on the application (the 'section 48 consultation'); and
  • consulting the local community in the vicinity of the proposal on the application (the 'community consultation').

Until a week ago, only two projects had started the third of these, the section 48 consultation. These were the EfW plant in Bedfordshire and a biomass plant in Hull. Now two more have joined this exclusive list. It certainly looks like the new regime is finally gathering pace.

The first new consultation is the overhead line in Neath referred to above. It has set a deadline of 30 June for consultation responses to be received, which is why it is unlikely that the application will be made the following day. The second is another EfW plant promoted by Covanta, this time near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. The response deadline for this one is 9 July, and the application is expected to be made on 1 September.

The section 48 consultation period must be at least 28 days, and so no application can be made in the next 28 days for any project that has not started this stage (i.e. before 25 June). Applications are also unlikely to be made for a further couple of weeks, because the consultation responses must be considered, any changes made to the project, and a report must be produced and submitted with the application of how the consultation was carried out and how each response was dealt with.

Useful NSIP links

Links to the four section 48 application notices and each project's website:

Covanta's EfW plant at Rookery South, Bedfordshire notice page 1 page 2 website

DONG ENergy's biomass plant in Hull notice page 1 page 2 website Western Power Distribution's 132kV overhead line at Banwen, Neath notice website

Covanta's EfW plant at Brig y Cwm, Merthyr Tydfil notice page 1 page 2 website

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