New National Planning Statements for energy will be crucial in smoothing the development consent process for renewables, Liz Dunn, a partner at law firm Burgess Salmon, told Waterfront’s Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Forum this week. She said that “With new renewable technologies coming forward, the new EN3 will be very important in making the case for scheme to be approved.”
Current NPS statements, including those specifically on energy (EN1), renewables (EN3) and nuclear were set a decade ago and are subject to legal challenge because they pre-date legislation that requires the UK to meet Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The statements are intended to smooth the development consent process because they set out energy needs, allowing the development consent process to focus on the project’s impacts.
Dunn added that government should “learn the lessons of letting the energy NPSs get quite old” for statements on national networks. They are starting to look older and there is clear challenge around the climate change agenda and Net Zero, she said, but infrastructure will be critical to levelling up and NPSs are critical to that.
She said plans to review the statements are “ongoing and it is urgent that it happens” because new renewables projects, including ambitious plans for offshore wind, “will need a strong policy”.
She said, “I don’t think anyone needs a crystal ball to predict that there will be a significant number of [PV] applications coming forward in the next six to 12 months.” She added that although onshore wind, which was designated and supported in 2011 when EN3 was agreed, has been out of favour in England there is a resurgence in Wales, with its new Future Wales policy, and in Scotland. What is more, “There are an increasing number of hybrid schemes coming forward,” she said.
She said that there was now greater engagement and involvement in the development consent process from local and national climate groups because the development consent policy is not in line with national and international decisions.
Dunn said, “The decision that was really illuminating was Wylfa Newydd”.
That proposal, for a new nuclear power station, was “absolutely critical for Anglesey and for Wales, a hugely important project and the examining authority found that the impacts outweighed the benefits of that project coming forward,” and as a result National Infrastructure Planning recommended against consent (see the report here).
Unlike other NPSs, that for nuclear identifies specific sites for nuclear new-build and a timetable for delivery by 2025. When Hinkley Point C was considered, “substantial weight was given to the project being capable of completion by 2025,” and the secretary of state concluded the plant would make a crucial contribution to climate change objectives.
On Wylfa Newydd, crucially, there was no secretary of state’s decision, but she said it was “clear that the examining authority felt that the impacts of the scheme, particularly on protected sites and species, outweighed the scheme’s benefits,” including the need for the power. EN1 had been given some weight but not enough to balance the adverse effects.