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DCO Weekly 14 December

Latest developments including good progress on the first solar NSIP under the Planning Act 2008 regime, consultation on a new National Policy Statement for nuclear, Nuclear Industry Council’s proposals for a ‘Nuclear Sector Deal’, a new report on transforming infrastructure performance, Highways England’s plans for new road design standards in 2018 and calls for a Welsh ‘Clean Air Plan’.

Select a story to read more:

View previous editions and sign up to our weekly email. You can also read more about the team and our projects (PDF).

Comment by Gareth Phillips, Energy & Infrastructure Planning Partner 

This week saw the first of its kind Cleve Hill Solar NSIP take two significant steps forward. The EIA Scoping Report was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and is available on the Planning Inspectorate’s (PINS) website. The Scoping decision is due in January. Also, the first round of consultation events were completed in Swale and other areas in Kent local to the site. These received a great deal of interest from locate residents, with approximately 500 attendees, and local MPs, at the events. Formal consultation is due to be held in spring 2018.

After several years in the planning it has been the highlight of 2017 to get the NSIP process underway for this project and see it in the public domain. Consultation has already been successful in terms of the sheer numbers of those taking an interest and the good ideas already communicated. 2018 will see an application submitted to PINS and that is something to look forward to in the New Year.

This is our last edition of the DCO Bulletin for 2017 and we will return in January 2018. Best wishes for the festive season and the New Year from me and all the team here at Pinsent Masons.

Consultation on new National Policy Statement and nuclear build post 2025

The UK Government is consulting on a new National Policy Statement (NPS) for nuclear. The consultation seeks views on the process and criteria for designating potentially suitable sites for the deployment of new nuclear power stations between 2026 to 2035 and with over 1 gigawatt (GW) of single reactor electricity generating capacity.

The Overarching NPS for 'Energy' (EN-1) and the NPS for 'Nuclear Power Generation' (EN-6) provide the "framework for development consent decisions on applications for new nuclear power stations expected to deploy by the end of 2025". EN-1 and EN-6 set out the "need for nuclear power, whilst also providing planning guidance for developers and for the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State in their consideration of applications" under the Planning Act 2008.

The 2011 NPS for Energy (EN-1) "made clear the Government’s view that nuclear power generation is a low-carbon, proven technology which will play an important role as we move to diversify and decarbonise our sources of electricity and increase the resilience of the UK’s energy system" and as the Government has confirmed in its most recent consultation, it continues to "believe that new nuclear power has an important role to play in the UK’s future energy mix". So it is now necessary to "designate a new nuclear National Policy Statement to facilitate nuclear power stations at sites capable of deployment between 2026-2035". The Government is also publishing a scoping report on the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) for a proposed new NPS for Nuclear deploying between 2026-2035 alongside this consultation. It proposes a process for undertaking the AoS, specifies the level and type of information that will be covered and how this will be picked up in the development of the proposed new NPS.

The consultation published by BEIS on the proposed new NPS for nuclear is Stage 1 of the process of designating the NPS, which closes on 15 March 2018. After March 2018, there will be a further consultation on the draft NPS, which will build on the outcome of this consultation. As part of Stage 2 of the process in early 2018, the Government will finalise the "strategic criteria following careful consideration of the responses to this consultation" which will be published as a response. After this, and as part of Stage 3, the Government will consult on a draft list of sites and on the draft AoS in autumn 2018. Finally, during Stage 4, anticipated for autumn 2019, the Government will publish the "final list of potentially suitable sites" and lay the final NPS in Parliament under the Planning Act 2008.

Richard Griffiths, energy and infrastructure planning expert at Pinsent Masons said: “The draft list of sites that will be consulted on under Stage 3 is currently anticipated to be the existing sites set out in EN-6, which is welcome news and will provide certainty to those involved  in promoting and developing the sites listed”.

National Policy Statements (NPS) "establish the case for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, as defined in the Planning Act 2008."

Proposed Nuclear Sector Deal published 

The UK's Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) has published its proposals for a Nuclear Sector Deal, following publication of the UK Government's Industrial Strategy White Paper, which states the nuclear sector is "integral to increasing productivity and driving growth" in the UK. One of the core objectives set out in the White Paper was investment in new technologies, and in announcing the NIC's proposals for a sector deal, Richard Harrington, Minister for Energy, in a speech to the nuclear industry highlighted  the Government's "policy clarity on new build and geological disposal programmes" which would include a new National Policy Statement for delivering new nuclear sites (see more above)  and the intention to "shortly launch two public consultations on the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) Programme".

In his speech, Harrington also referred to the policy intention of boosting innovation and R&D "up to £8m as part of the Nuclear Innovation Programme and up to £56m funding for new technologies through the 2-stage AMR Programme". Funding is to be made available to ensure the "UK remains as a world leader in fusion" with £86m of funding to establish the National Fusion Technology Platform (NaFTeP) based at Culham in Oxfordshire.

In the foreword to the NIC's proposals, Lord Hutton of Furness, co-chairman of the NIC said: "We are presenting a series of actions for industry, with government involvement, across key activity areas for our industry - new build, decommissioning and future technology. There are areas where industry will work collaboratively on skills, on research, on helping develop the supply chain and with local economic partnerships and the holders of devolved powers, to realise that potential".

"It is an exciting agenda, and a series of opportunities which can best be realised with a shared determination and commitment from both industry and government, which will both enhance a strategically important sector but also help deliver the country's ambitious industrial strategy for the future", said Lord Hutton.

The proposed nuclear sector deal comprises five key elements where the NIC believe that "industry action and government intervention will deliver significant change".  The key areas summarised cover: new build; decommissioning and waste management; future technology and innovation; maximising economic benefits; and skills and training, exploring the benefits, what is being 'asked' of Government, and next steps.

The NIC has said that: "These proposals are focussed initially on the period until 2030 to be consistent with the government’s industrial strategy but will also be the foundation for much longer term progress and activity. This will better equip the UK to capitalise on opportunities in a domestic market worth £75bn and global markets for new build estimated to be worth £1.2 trillion and for decommissioning estimated to be worth £100bn up to 2035".

Funding will be made available over the next three years to support research into advanced and small modular reactors; the Government is also aiming to establish an expert finance group to advise on how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK. The Government will soon launch phase two of its Nuclear Innovation Programme which includes an investment of £8 million into work on modern safety and security methodologies and studies in advanced fuels.

The policy paper on "Advanced Nuclear Technologies" states that the "nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the UK’s Industrial Strategy building on our existing economic strengths and competitive advantages in nuclear while shaping new advanced nuclear markets." The terms "Advanced Nuclear Technologies" is to encompass Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "New industry figures show that the UK’s civil nuclear sector contributed £6.4 billion to the UK economy last year. Today’s announcements recognise the importance of industry driving innovation, supported by government, so the sector continues to compete at the very highest level, not just in the UK but globally."

Science Minister Jo Johnson said, "This new funding for nuclear fusion research will establish a unique set of research and innovation capabilities that will safeguard the exceptional work already taking place in Culham by scientists and engineers from across the world, and emphasises the UK’s commitment to international collaboration."

Smart construction and technology could save £15bn a year, says UK government

A three-point plan to improve UK infrastructure delivery could generate savings of £15 billion a year, the government has claimed.

A new report on transforming infrastructure performance has identified three areas for improvement: 'smart' construction, including use of offsite manufacture; more and better use of digital technology to make new and existing infrastructure 'smarter'; and better sharing of innovation and best practice.

The plans will be implemented over the next 10 years, and includes seven immediate priorities that the UK's Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) will focus on over the next two years. These include establishing a new 'benchmarking' team to define cost and performance benchmarks, better cross-sector integration and more use of digital technology and innovation to improve its delivery of infrastructure projects.

Publication of the report corresponded with that of the updated National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP) for 2017. The NCIP sets out the £600bn worth of projects, to be funded by both the public and private sectors, which the government intends to deliver over the next decade.

The government has targeted the construction sector with an industry-specific 'sector deal' as part of its recently-published industrial strategy. This sets out its plans to boost UK productivity, which currently lags behind productivity levels in Germany, France, the US and Italy. The construction sector deal includes additional investment in innovation and skills as well as a new procurement model, which will ensure that construction projects across the public and private sectors are procured and built based on their whole life value and not just the initial capital cost.

Read the full article on Out-Law here.

Andrew McNaughton appointed as Strategic Technical Adviser at HS2

Professor Andrew McNaughton has been appointed to a new strategic part-time role within HS2 Ltd. Andrew will advise the HS2 Executive and Board on technical matters, as well as advising the Department of Transport (DfT) and other government departments on wider transport matters.

Andrew joined HS2 Ltd as its first official employee in 2009, taking on the role of Chief Engineer.  He was then appointed Technical Director at in February 2012. It has been confirmed that Andrew will continue in his role as expert witness for the project, as required, and continue to be chairman of the World High Speed Rail, in addition to his new role.

Professor McNaughton said: "After leading the design and authorisation phases of HS2 for the last 9 years I am stepping back from a full time executive leadership function to this more strategic role which, I am delighted to say, will continue my strong link with HS2 whilst also giving me more freedom to advise the government here, and others elsewhere, on both high speed railway development, and wider transport issues."

The chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Mark Thurston, said: "Andrew was not only our first employee, but has also been an inspiration to many of those who have joined since. He has been critical in establishing the project and in recruiting the highly talented team that will carry his and many others’ work through to fruition. We will continue to lean heavily on his expertise, at the same time as benefiting from the perspective Andrew gains from his work with other organisations."

Andrew will begin in his new role from 2 January 2018. An announcement on the future leadership of the Technical Directorate is expected shortly.

Highways England plans new road design standards 2018

The "Design Manual for Roads and Bridges" (DMRB)  sets out standards for the delivery and management of motorway and all-purpose trunk roads across the UK. It is being updated to enhance ease of use for designers. According to Highways England, this updating exercise will be undertaken by an innovative online tool which is the first time such digital technology has been used and it should make it more straightforward for future updates.

The Chief Highway Engineer at Highways England said: "This is an exciting time for the highways sector and as we deliver both the government’s £15 billion road investment programme and look ahead to 2020 and beyond, we are delighted to be able to start releasing the first updates to this crucially important document."

As specifically required by the Government's Road Investment Strategy, Highways England has been working on updating the manual, which comprises of over 350 documents and associated Interim Advice Notes, since April 2015.

The first modified standards are expected to be released in 2018, with the full updated version being complete by the end of March 2020.


Welsh Environment Minister announces ambitious plans to improve air quality

The Welsh Government has published ambitious plans to tackle air pollution in Wales. Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn has announced that she will be taking action through an "ambitious" cross-government programme of work, which will include a Clean Air Plan for Wales in 2018.

According to reports, the minister called on the UK Government to follow through with its pledge of phasing out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 with a concrete set of milestones to be achieved ahead of that date.

Welsh Government news reports suggest that the Clean Air Plan for Wales will set up a "Clean Air Zone Framework to ensure the consistent and effective implementation of Clean Air Zones by Local Authorities" and help to improve local authority reporting. It will establish a "National Air Quality Assessment and Monitoring Centre for Wales. This centre will "advise local and national government on the extent of poor air quality and the effectiveness of current and future actions" covering compliance and air pollution 'hot spots'. The Welsh Government’s air quality website will also be re-launched with "improved air quality forecasting capability".

Blythn said: “The actions that I have set out today demonstrate our determination for Wales to be a leader in delivering innovative and effective solutions to tackle air pollution, achieving clean air for all… This is a necessary and positive step, but 2040 is a long way off. I would, therefore, welcome Assembly Members’ support in calling on the UK Government to work closely with us to develop clear timescales for a progressive transition to zero emission road transport”.

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