National Significant Infrastructure Projects
Following concerns over the length of time it was taking for certain major development proposals to get through the planning system, the Planning Act 2008 introduced measures to streamline the decision making process for major infrastructure projects.
The type of scheme that can be considered under this regime is limited to the following:
- those relating to energy generation, transmission or storage
- highway related development
- airport related development
- harbour facilities
- rail freight interchanges
- transfer of water resources
- waste water treatment plant
- hazardous waste facilities
Procedurally, the most significant point to note in the determination of an NSIP is that the decision making role which the Local Planning Authority normally exercises with regard to all development proposal is taken away from them and now rests with the Secretary of State. This means that the role of the local planning authority is now that of an interested party and consultee. The final decision is made by the Secretary of State. Under the Localism Act 2011 the Planning Inspectorate became the government agency responsible for operating the planning process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. The Planning Inspectorate assesses each project and makes recommendations to the Secretary of State. A successful decision comes in the form of what is referred to as a Development Consent Order.
Another aspect of the procedure is that the developer is required to do most of the work with regards to the project in the pre application stage. This means that any responses to consultation exercises should be directed towards the developer and not the local planning authority or the Planning Inspectorate. The responsibilities change when the proposal is formally submitted for examination at which time the Planning Inspectorate takes more of a lead role.
The link below will take you to National Infrastructure Planning website homepage where you can browse and explore the background to the process and procedure: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk
Current Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Projects of Interest to Winchester City Council
There are three Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) proposals which relate to land wholly or partly within the district. They are all at different stages of the process. These projects are listed below with key actions together with the link to the developers own web site and the link to the planning inspectorate web site. These web sites will show the most up to date information on the schemes.
Southampton to London Pipeline Project
This project was formally submitted in May 2019. The proposal is to replace the existing aviation fuel pipeline that runs up from Fawley and serves the London Airports. The original pipeline is coming to the end of its useful life. Winchester City Council has an interest in the short section of the pipeline route from where it enters the district to the point where it crosses the B2177 west of Bishops Waltham and enters the South Downs National Park. The applicant’s web site is the best site from which to get an overview of the project. This can be found using the following link.
The six month Examination Stage began on 9 October 2019. The Examination Stage is principally a written process but has included a series of one day hearings at a venue up in Farnborough (an approximate midway point in the pipeline). The topics for the hearings were decided by the examination panel which consisted of three inspectors. As the Examination has progressed, the scheme has evolved and changed in response to the comments made by third parties and resulting from the questions asked by the examination panel of inspectors. The most significant aspect for Winchester City Council has been the removal of the proposal for a logistical hub (depot) that was to be formed off the A31 at Ropley Green. The main details and actions are displayed and recorded on the planning inspectorate website. This can be viewed via the following link.
The Examination Stage closed on 9 April 2020. The Examination Panel completed and submitted their recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 7 July 2020. He issued the decision to grant the development consent order on 7 October 2020. The secretary of state’s decision letter and the development consent order together with the background papers to this decision can be viewed on the application web site using the link above.
If Esso proceed with the scheme then the Council will have to deal with a number of submissions that relate to work details. Provisional discussions on this detail is about to start in March 2021 which would seem to indicate that Esso are thinking about implementing the scheme shortly.
10 March 2021
This is a proposal to create a 2000 MW cross Channel electricity link which will enable power to be imported or exported. The UK side of the link would make landfall in Portsmouth with the DC cables laid in the highway up off the island, then up to A3 to Waterlooville and along the Hambledon Road (B2150) before striking off northward to Lovedean where the connection would be made to the UK national grid, utilising the existing substation. A Converter Station would be constructed on the western side of the substation to allow the power to be converted from either DC to AC or from AC to DC depending on whether power is being imported or exported.
There is some general information about Aquind who are the promoters and an overview of the scheme on their web site which can be accessed via the following link.
Five councils have an interest in this scheme and the South Downs National Park Authority is also involved given the proximity of the Converter Station to the National Park boundary. Winchester City Council is a host authority to a section of the cable route and for the Converter Station.
Aquind ran a consultation exercise based on their Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) from February to April 2019. The formal application was accepted for examination by the planning inspectorate in December 2019. The main documents are held on the planning inspectorate web site. This can be viewed via the following link.
Managing and displaying the documents associated with the Examination is not an easy task. Aquind’s original submission in December 2019 was over 160 documents. Whilst the front page of the Aquind project on the PINs website tells you of the most recent actions, the Examination Library is probably the easiest way to find a document or where we are in the process. The Library is divided up into a series of folders which either contain a series of documents with additions throughout the Examination such as the folder headed Procedural Decisions and Notifications from the Examining Authority, or the folder will display all documents submitted at a specific deadline. These deadlines correspond with those identified in the timetable letter. The following is a link to the library.
A report was considered at the Cabinet Committee meeting on 11 March 2020 (item 13). This set out the approach that the Council adopted in the process. The report can be viewed using the following link. One outcome of the Cabinet paper was the commitment to establish a local contact group with the elected members for Denmead and the parish councils in that area. This group regularly meets online to review the application and consider the Councils latest position.
A date for the Preliminary Meeting (PM) was set for 22 April 2020. The proposed venue was to be the Village Hotel at Cosham. This meeting would discuss those topics to be considered at hearings, fix the timetable for the submission of key documents and discuss when the hearings would take place. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the PM was postponed. On 3 July 2020 a fresh date for the PM was announced as 18 August 2020. The 8 September 2020 was also held over as a second day for the PM. A new letter was issued setting out the proposed draft timetable. The meetings took place online using Microsoft Teams. An audio recording of the two meeting was made and can be listened to using the link on the application web site.
The closure of the second part of the Preliminary Meeting on 8 September 2020 formally started the 6 month Examination Stage of the application. On 15 September the Planning Inspectorate issued the finalised timetable for the Examination. This set out all the deadlines for the submission of statements and the dates for the various open floor hearings and the issue specific hearings. This timetable has been revised on two occasions with a new Timetable letter being issued. The most recent is 11 January 2021.
At the first deadline of 6 October 2020 the Councils submitted its Local Impact Report which set out in full detail its views on the proposal. Since that date, the Examination has passed through 9 deadlines where the interested parties have had the opportunity to submit updated views on aspects of the scheme and comment on the previous submission of other parties. All the deadline submissions are published in the examination library which is part of the record held on the web site. Through this submission and comment procedure, the application has been evolving. A number of online hearings were held in December 2020 and a further set held in February 2021. All the hearings where live streamed and audio recordings are part of the library record. The applicant had the last say on any submissions and so all the documents presented at Deadline 9 are from Aquind. The Examination stage was completed on 8 March 2021. The panel of inspectors who ran the Examination must now present the findings and conclusions arising from the Examination, together with their Recommendation, to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by no later than 8 June 2021. The Secretary of State then has three months to issue his/her final decision. Accordingly, the outcome of the application should be known by mid-September 2021.
10 March 2021
M3 Junction 9 Improvement
Highways England (HE) are promoting this scheme that would see the redesign of the current junction, allowing northbound traffic on the motorway which intends to join the A34 to do so without stopping and for A34 southbound traffic to join the M3 also without stopping.
Highways England ran a consultation exercise based on the Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) in July/August 2019. WCC formally responded. Given the interest in the scheme a report was considered by the Cabinet on 28 August 2019 which set out the basis of the response to the PEIR. That Cabinet report (agenda item 11) can be viewed via the following link.
As the scheme is still in the pre application stage the applicant’s web site contains most information. This can be accessed via the following link.
The planning inspectorate web site does contain some limited information and can be viewed via the following link.
It is understood that Highway England are currently looking at the traffic flow and lane circulation arrangements regarding safety concerns for those vehicles intending to travel northbound on the A33 from the newly designed junction. A further round of public consultations will take place once this redesign work is completed. WCC is actively seeking to discussion general issues regarding the project before any redesign work is undertaken. A consultation on the revised plans is expected during Summer 2021 when it is hoped COVID-19 restrictions will allow in-person consultation events
10 March 2021
The site for the following project is located in the Test Valley District Area to the north of Barton Stacey on the opposite side of the A303. However, given its proximity to the district boundary, the wider implications of this proposal in terms of landscape impact, air quality and traffic where noted and a decision made to comment upon them.
Wheelabrator Harewood Waste to Energy Facility - Scheme WIthdrawn
This is a project that would see the incineration of waste drawn from a wide area utilising the good road connections that the A303 provides to the strategic road network. The resultant heat would be used to raise steam to generate electricity that would be fed into the national grid. The proposal exceeded the power generation threshold and if submitted would be considered under the NSIP regulations.
In 2019, the promoters of the scheme undertook a consultation exercise based on the Preliminary Environmental Impact Report (PEIR).
In February 2020 the promoters wrote to the planning inspectorate informing them that they did not wish to proceed with the project. In other press releases reference was made to the promoter focusing on developing their other Energy from Waste schemes in the UK.
Because the proposal never got to the point of a formal submission, the pre application details that originally show up on the planning inspectorate web site have now been removed. It also appears that the applicants dedicated web site has now been taken down.
Given the above circumstances work on this project has now ceased and the file closed.