As of today, for the first time ten nationally significant infrastructure projects are at their examination stage at the same time.
The examination stage is roughly the middle section between an application being submitted and a decision being made. Once an application is in, there is a variable period of what in practice has averaged around four and a half months until the holding of the 'preliminary meeting'. This has depended on promoters and other factors and has varied between 120 and 190 days. The Heysham to M6 Link Road and Galloper Offshore Windfarm projects have the distinction of being the fastest and slowest respectively.
The preliminary meeting is the first, and potentially only, meeting where all the parties can attend and make oral submissions. The principal issues are aired, and bids are made for hearings. The day after the preliminary meeting is the start of a (maximum) six-month examination of the application by the examining inspector or inspectors. Since the most recent preliminary meeting was held yesterday, for the first time the number of projects in that six-month period has reached double figures.
The ten projects are:
- Kentish Flats offshore windfarm
- Brechfa Forest West onshore windfarm
- Hinkley Point C nuclear power station
- Heysham to M6 link road
- Preesall gas storage
- Able Marine Energy Park
- Galloper offshore windfarm
- Triton Knoll offshore windfarm
- East Northants Resource Managament Facility
- Port Blyth biomass plant
The pipeline is less dry than before as well - there are three more projects where applications have been made but the preliminary meeting has yet to be held:
- M1 junction 10a
- Roosecote biomass plant
- King's Lynn B electric line
Finally, although there are still no projects to have fully emerged from the Planning Act process, three are in the what you might call 'post-examination' phase:
- Rookery South energy from waste
- North Doncaster railway chord
- Ipswich railway chord
The Planning Act regime came into being for applications on 1 March 2010. Two years ago the 'three pre-examination, 10 examination, three post-examination' figures were 'zero, zero, zero' and one year ago they were 'two, one, one'. With eighteen* applications having been made altogether, is the Planning Act regime coming of age at last?
*I realise that 3+10+3 is less than eighteen, but two more applications have been made but didn't progress for one reason or another.