This is entry number 254, published on 23 June 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 (second) entry reports on the current status of applications made to the IPC and pending.

Since 1 March 2010, it has been compulsory for applications for energy and transport projects above certain size thresholds to be made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).  Despite the compulsion, only three applications had been made for any sort of infrastructure project since that date, but yesterday the fourth application was made.

The first three applications were all for energy projects: two energy from waste plants and one electric line, although the IPC refused to accept the last of these for examination, as it considered the application to be flawed.  The latest application is by Network Rail for a 3.2km-long 'chord' of railway north of Doncaster, and is thus the first transport application to be made.  The project would allow east to north-west freight trains to cross the East Coast Main Line (ECML) on a viaduct rather than having to travel on the ECML for a short distance.  The project website for the so-called North Doncaster Chord can be found here.

Other projects

What else is in the pipeline?  The IPC has 66 projects on its website, although eight of these are listed as 'archived', so there are really only 58 live projects.  The first legal step that most applicants take is to ask the IPC for a 'scoping opinion' on what its environmental statement should contain, and the second step is to start pre-application consultation.  It is thus possible to categorise the 55 applications in the pipeline into a rough index of readiness.

Here is a chart of the latest status of the projects, sorted by type.  If you are very eagle-eyed, you will notice that the total number of projects shown is 67 rather than 66, but that is because one project is a power station plus quay, both of which are nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).

The categories are fairly self-explanatory but are as follows:

  • Made - the application has been made to the IPC
  • Consultation - the promoter has published a pre-application consultation notice in a national newspaper  
  • Scoping - the promoter has sought a scoping opinion from the IPC  
  • Early - the project is on the IPC website, but no formal steps have been taken yet  
  • Withdrawn - the project is marked thus on the IPC website

Click here to view graph.

The number of pre-application consultations has been creeping up in recent months - about two per month this year, although this has not translated directly into actual applications.  If promoters take too long to make their applications, there is a risk that their land referencing and consultation responses will become 'stale'.  Indeed, SSE Renewables has reissued its pre-application consultation for its proposed wind farm at Nant y Moch this month, having launched it originally back in June 2010.

So it's all happening rather slowly, but cracks are showing in the dam holding back the pending applications.