This is entry number 231, published on 7 April 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog.
Today’s entry reports on the latest stages of the two applications before the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
Rookery South energy from waste project
The first application to be accepted by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) was for an energy from waste plant in Bedfordshire. All those planning their own projects are following the progress of this application closely for clues as to how theirs will unfold.
Yesterday, the latest round of documents was published on the IPC website. Remember that this is primarily a process carried out in writing rather than focusing on the more traditional public inquiry.
The latest set of documents are comments by the promoter, Covanta Energy, and objectors on various things: each other's representations, the two Local Impact Reports, and each other's answers to questions posed by the panel of IPC commissioners. They can be found here. The blog entry for the previous round of documents can be found here.
Make of this what you will, but there were 1004 summary objections, then 95 detailed representations, and now just 9 comments have been made. If this geometric series continues, there should just be one submission at the next and final stage. Do those who have chosen not to respond further feel they have done their bit already, are they satisfied with the responses from Covanta that have been made, satisfied that others - including perhaps the IPC - are taking up their concerns, or simply worn down by the process and the amount of documentation that is building up? Some of each, probably.
One thing is for sure, which is that Covanta will be making further representations - they are in overdrive. At the objection stage, they did not make any representions, of course. At the preliminary meeting they deposited a few more documents. I think these are the Covanta ones at the 'project documents' tab on the IPC website, or they may be the ones mentioned at the 'overview' tab, although it's not that clear.
At the next deadline, answering the panel's questions and making statements of common ground, they deposited 53 more documents totalling 855 pages. That may seem a lot, but at this latest stage, their 'comments' consist of 51 further documents totalling 1930 pages. Other promoters are likely to be nervous that they will be expected to produce a similar volume of information in the short time available. The most recent stage was only four weeks long - corresponding to 96 pages per working day!
They have given brief responses to all 1004 original representations, as well as longer responses to the 94 fuller objections. Also of interest is that they have submitted a revised 'development consent order', the legal instrument that will authorise the project. I have checked this against the one originally submitted last August, and it has not changed much, but there are several small changes. The 'protective provisions' schedule at the end remains empty.
The panel has set a deadline of 6 June for receipt of the 'final' development consent order, so two months remain for that. Before then, on 13 May, there is to be a 'specific issue hearing' into the order and any associated s106 agreement (i.e. an agreement under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 - planning obligations).
The next step is that the 'examining authority', as the panel calls itself, will publish a second set of questions by Monday - it's not obvious where these will appear on the website, but I will look out for them. These are to be answered by anyone who chooses by 6 June, which is effectively the last date for any written representations to be made.
That date is also the deadline for anyone who made a representation to request an 'open floor hearing', or anyone who is having land taken to request a 'compulsory acquisition hearing'. These are two of the three types of hearing that can be held - there being no public inquiry - the third type being the 'specific issue hearing' mentioned above. The panel has reserved the right to announce further specific issue hearings by 13 May. The format of these hearings remains to be seen - it will be a tricky balancing exercise between allowing people to have their say while avoiding repetition and maintaining some sort of structure.
Brig y Cwm energy from waste project
Meanwhile, a panel of three commissioners has been appointed to consider the other application before the IPC - another energy from waste project from Covanta, at Brig y Cwm, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The lead commissioner is Jan Bessell, and she will be supported by Glyn Roberts and Lorna Walker. Their first job is to decide a date for the preliminary meeting and publish a draft timetable and set of principal issues.