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Which NSIPs use the Planning Act regime?

Angus Walker picture-13This entry reports on the types of nationally significant infrastructure project using the Planning Act 2008 regime.

Before going on leave for a couple of weeks, the Planning Act blog looks at which types of nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) have used the Planning Act 2008 regime so far and are planning to use it.

When the Act was given royal assent in November 2008, it covered 16 types of infrastructure project - and it still does, although some project types have been varied and some business and commercial projects are also able to use the regime.

The National Infrastructure Planning website lists 105 projects that are either 'pre-application' - i.e. the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) have been notified that an application is proposed, an application has been made for them but is not yet decided, or the application has been decided.  Breaking down the sixteen types of infrastructure into each of these stages yields the following:

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Type

Total

Pre-application

Under consideration

Consented

Electricity generation

53

28

16

9

Overhead line

14

11

1

2

Gas storage

2

1

1

0

LNG facility

0

0

0

0

Gas reception facility

0

0

0

0

Gas pipeline

3

2

1

0

Other pipeline

2

1

1

0

Highway

16

8

6

2

Airport

0

0

0

0

Harbour

2

1

0

1

Railway

5

1

0

4

Rail freight interchange

3

2

0

1

Dam or reservoir

0

0

0

0

Water transfer

0

0

0

0

Waste water treatment

1

0

1

0

Hazardous waste

3

1

1

1

Business and commercial

1

1

0

0

Total

105

56

29

20

Thus more than half the applications are for electricity generation, but this is a very wide category, covering anything that will be capable of generating more than 50MW onshore or 100MW offshore. Breaking these down into types of generation yields the following: 

Type

Total

Pre-application

Under consideration

Consented

Offshore wind farm

17

6

6

5

Gas-fired power station

16

9

7

0

Onshore wind farm

10

7

2

1

Nuclear power station

5

4

0

1

Biomass power station

3

2

0

1

Tidal energy

1

0

1

0

Energy from waste

1

0

0

1

It is interesting that gas-fired power stations are the second largest category, but none has been decided yet. The first will be the North Killingholme power station by 11 September (although the application allows it to run on coal or biomass as well).

Five categories of NSIP have not troubled PINS at all yet - liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, gas reception facilities, airports, water transfer and dams or reservoirs. The last two categories are unable to do so at present, because the government has not yet seen fit to 'switch on' the Planning Act regime for such projects. Then again, even if it had, I don't think there would have been any.

An extension to Luton Airport of over 10 million passengers briefly appeared on the PINS website but was withdrawn shortly thereafter. If the runway recommended by the Aiports Commission is brought forward, it will almost certainly be an NSIP, although a consultation has just closed on consenting routes.

LNG and gas reception facilities have been around since day 1 (1 March 2010) but there has been no sniff of either of them - perhaps not enough tert-butylthiol has been added. Actually, there are only a handful of such facilities in existence, so new ones and large extensions to the existing ones were always going to be thin on the ground.

Thus the absence of projects of these type is probably more to do with their rarity than that the threshold in the Planning Act is too high.

The 'consented' category adds up to 20, although the PINS website gives it as 21, because the Preesall gas storage project was refused but is being reconsidered following a successful judicial review of the decision.  I am therefore categorising it as 'under consideration'. There is a final deadline for comments of 11 September after which the government will re-decide the application. By next week it will have taken longer post-decision than it did from application to the original decision.

Five types of infrastructure are in double figures in terms of projects (and the next highest total is only five): offshore wind farms, gas-fired power stations, highways, overhead lines and onshore wind farms. These form 70% of all projects, and two-thirds of the applications that have been made.

So the Planning Act regime has not developed evenly across the sectors it has covered.  Nevertheless for a regime that covers different sectors for the first time, lessons learned in one sector can be applied to others and one need not look at projects of the same type for guidance and innovation.

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