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DCO Weekly: 14 March 2019

Latest developments including new offshore wind sector deal, UK’s first offshore wind corporate PPA signed, new consultation on the future of infrastructure resilience, progress update on the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy, EU Energy and Environment Committee’s concerns over the government's proposals for upholding environmental law after Brexit, mixed fortunes for UK government in planning rulings, Millbrook Gas Fired Generating Station Order 2019 made, Silvertown Tunnel (Correction) Order 2019 made, Rule 8 letter issued on the West Midlands Interchange, two Rule 6 letters issued and consultation on the A1 highways scheme.

Select a story to read more:

Comment by Jonathan Leary, Energy & Infrastructure Planning Associate
Offshore wind sector deal targets 30% of UK electricity generation
UK’s first offshore wind corporate PPA signed
New consultation "examines the future of infrastructure resilience"
Green energy package announced for Liverpool city region
Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy:  progress update
Committee raises concerns on environmental law after Brexit
Mixed fortunes for UK government in planning rulings
Millbrook Gas Fired Generating Station Order 2019
The Silvertown Tunnel (Correction) Order 2019
West Midlands Interchange Examination Timetable has been sent to Interested Parties
Notice of preliminary meeting on A585 Windy Harbour to Skippool Improvement Scheme
Notice of preliminary meeting on Riverside Energy Park
Consultation on major A1 highways scheme

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Comment by Jonathan Leary, Energy & Infrastructure Planning Associate

 As the UK is lashed by storms of the meteorological (Storm Gareth) and the political variety (Brexit), DBEIS has announced the Offshore Wind Sector Deal. Forming part of the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy, the deal brings Government and industry together to set out their priorities and approach to maximising the benefits that the offshore sector can bring to the UK economy. The deal builds upon the success story that is the UK offshore wind sector which has seen the UK have the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. It also sets an ambitious goal for the sector to deliver up to 30GW of offshore wind by 2030 that would see over £40 bn of infrastructure investment.  

Like any deal, it requires both parties to give something to the other for a greater mutual benefit. Government has committed to providing forward visibility of future Contracts for Difference rounds, with support of up to £557m with the next allocation round planned to open by May 2019, with subsequent auctions around two years thereafter. Government will also continue to fund collaborative research and development and participate in a new sector led Investment in Talent group. On the flip side, industry has committed to delivering up to £250m in building a stronger UK supply chain through the establishment of an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to improve productivity and increase competitiveness, which will be launched in May this year. Industry has also committed to supporting UK manufacturing by setting targets for UK content in offshore wind projects, together with a fivefold increase in UK exports. The offshore sector has said that it will work with Government to improve the development of skills, apprenticeships and accreditations.

Of interest to those involved in infrastructure planning, the Government has committed to working collaboratively with the offshore sector and stakeholders to address strategic deployment issues, including aviation and radar, onshore and offshore transmission, cumulative environmental impacts on the marine and onshore environments. As the offshore wind sector continues to grow, these issues are likely to become more challenging and the Government’s acknowledgement is very welcome. However, it remains to be seen how effective the Government’s collaborative approach will be over the coming decade. That said, all in all the sector deal is welcome recognition by Government of the important role that the offshore wind sector can play in helping to secure the UK’s energy supply and the wider economic benefits of a thriving industry.

Turning to project news, this week sees a new DCO made for the Millbrook OCGT plant in Bedfordshire, again great news for the energy sector and UK supplies.  


 

Offshore wind sector deal targets 30% of UK electricity generation

 The latest 'sector deal' between the government and industry is backed by some of the UK's biggest renewable power companies, the Offshore Wind Industry Council and the Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland, which will begin leasing more of the UK sea bed for offshore wind projects over the next year. 

The deal "provides very welcome policy commitment from the UK government", according to renewable energy expert Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons. It "responds to the opportunities which have been coming from ever-lower development costs, increased activity and a strong pipeline with further leasing rounds to come".

"The next generation of offshore wind projects will come on-stream in the late 2020s and early 2030s - when the targets in this deal are set to be met - which makes it a vital time for government and industry alike to have published this joint outlook on the future of the industry," he said.

Read more on Out-Law.

Minister for Clean Growth, Claire Perry said that “a couple of years ago there were just a few turbines, but now offshore wind accounts for about 7% of the UK’s energy supply and we want to take it to over 30%.”

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) welcomed the announcement of the new deal. An NIC spokesperson said: “Our National Infrastructure Assessment recommends that ministers aim for half of the UK’s electricity generation to come from renewables by 2030".

The deal "emphasises" how a move towards renewables could benefit the environment and the economy, according to the Commission.


 

UK’s first offshore wind corporate PPA signed

 Ørsted has "signed a long-term agreement with Northumbrian Water that will see the water company take almost a third of its renewable energy demand from Race Bank offshore wind farm". Read more on Ørsted's website.  

This is the first Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) of its kind in the UK and the ten year deal will deliver an "expansion of a renewable electricity supply agreement between the companies, which started in April 2018". From next month, Northumbrian Water will "source 30% of its renewable electricity directly from the Race Bank offshore wind farm, off the coast of Norfolk", according to Ørsted.

Alana Kühne, Head of Corporate PPAs at Ørsted, said: "Northumbrian Water shares our ambitions towards a greener future and are able to benefit from this journey through signing a Corporate PPA from Race Bank. For Ørsted, this agreement is an important step towards building long-term green partnerships with corporate power customers".


 

New consultation "examines the future of infrastructure resilience"

 The National Infrastructure Commission has published a new consultation that will inform the Commission's study into the "resilience of the UK’s infrastructure network".  See previous coverage in the DCO Bulletin. 

The consultation will close on 1 April 2019 and "help inform the development of a new framework to consider resilience across economic infrastructure, which will then be used during development of the next National Infrastructure Assessment". The Commission has said that it will also run workshops and meetings with relevant groups and organisations alongside the consultation.

The consultation will assist the Commission in gathering evidence on resilience priorities for the next National Infrastructure Assessment and on "issues emerging from sectoral interdependencies".

Sir John Armitt, Chariman of the Commission, said: “Whether it’s how we get to work, how we heat and light our homes or how we keep in touch with friends and family, our infrastructure services have become increasingly sophisticated and increasingly interdependent".

The study will "examine how best to ensure that our infrastructure systems are fit for managing shocks or disruptions they might face", said Sir Armitt.


 

Green energy package announced for Liverpool city region

 The Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region has announced plans for a Green Investment Fund which will grant £10 million towards renewable energy projects. The Fund is part of a long term aim for a zero-carbon city region by 2040, a pledge which was included in the Mayor's manifesto.

Liverpool Bay has one of the largest concentrations of off-shore wind turbines in the world; and the city region was designated as a Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering.  The Combined Authority has also previously established the Mersey Tidal Commission to develop ways of using the River Mersey as a source of renewable energy.


 

Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy:  progress update

 The Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy was first launched in December 2017. More recently, the Department for Transport (DfT) has published an implementation progress report, alongside HS2 Ltd, Highways England and Network Rail.  

The implementation progress report is the first annual report on implementing the Strategy and it sets out progress made to date. It outlines the commitments for the coming year under three broad themes, including: improving understanding of costs and performance, exploiting digital technology and enabling delivery. In addition, case studies are set out in an annex published alongside the report.

The Strategy was developed in order to drive efficiency in the sector against seven challenges: judging strategic choices and trade-offs; improving the way projects are set up; creation of a benchmarking forum to share best practice and innovation; establishing a common approach to cost estimating; promoting long term collaborative relationships with industry; challenging standards to enable innovation and drive efficiencies; and exploiting digital technology and standardising assets.


 

Committee raises concerns on environmental law after Brexit

 The EU Energy and Environment Committee has outlined its concerns over the government's proposals for upholding environmental law after Brexit in a recent letter sent to the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove.  

The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill proposed the establishment of an Office of Environmental Protection to govern environmental law post Brexit. However, in a recent roundtable discussion held on 6 February 2019, the Committee talked to environment experts about the proposals which resulted in a number of concerns being highlighted. The Committee's letter to the Environment Secretary outlines these findings and its recommendations for government action.

The Committee has concluded that an "independent domestic enforcement mechanism would be necessary to fill the vacuum caused by the UK leaving the EU, and that mechanism would need to have both regular oversight of the Government’s progress towards its environmental objectives and the ability to sanction non-compliance through the courts".

The roundtable of environmental experts convened by the Committee discussed the proposed Office of Environmental Protection and the draft Bill. The intention behind the proposals was welcomed but a "number of concerns about the body, as currently envisaged" were raised. The Committee is now calling on the government to consider the proposals as they are developed.


 

Mixed fortunes for UK government in planning rulings

 The UK government has successfully defended a legal challenge against its decision to adopt a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in England last year, but guidance contained in that framework concerning 'fracking' has been ruled to be unlawful.

The mixed fortunes for the government came in two rulings issued by the High Court in London on 6 March.

Planning law expert Iain Gilbey of Pinsent Masons said the decision in the fracking case would be "uncomfortable and inconvenient reading" for the government.

Read more on Out-Law.


 

Millbrook Gas Fired Generating Station Order 2019

 The Order was made on 13 March 2019 by Secretary of State for Energy and authorises the "construction and operation of an OCGT ‘peaking’ generating station of up to 299 megawatts" near the Rookery South pit, Bedfordshire.   

The Secretary of State's decision letter makes it clear that there is a "compelling case for granting development consent." 


 

The Silvertown Tunnel (Correction) Order 2019

 The Order was made on 21 February 2019. It amends the Silvertown Tunnel Order 2018 which  authorises the construction of a "twin bore road tunnel" and a new connection between the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach on the Greenwich Peninsula and the Tidal Basin roundabout junction on the A1020 Lower Lea Crossing/Silvertown Way. 

Read more on the Planning Inspectorate's (PINS) website.


 

West Midlands Interchange Examination Timetable has been sent to Interested Parties

 The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published a Rule 8 Letter setting out the examination timetable and procedural decisions for the examination of Four Ashes Limited’s application for a Development Consent Order (DCO). The DCO applied for would, if made, authorise the development of its West Midlands Interchange scheme.  

A single examiner, Paul Singleton, will conduct the examination which is scheduled to close on 27 August 2019, after which the examiner will issue his report of findings to the Secretary of State.

Read more on the PINS website.


 

Notice of preliminary meeting on A585 Windy Harbour to Skippool Improvement Scheme

 A 'Rule 6' letter published by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) indicates that a preliminary meeting will take place on 9 April 2019, marking the start of the examination into Highways England's A585 Windy Harbour to Skippool Improvement Scheme for  "up to 5km of new two lane dual carriageway road connecting Windy Harbour Junction to Skippool Junction".  

Gareth Symons has been appointed as a single lead examiner.  

The Rule 6 letter sets out Gareth Symons initial assessment of the principal issues to consider, his procedural decisions and the draft examination timetable which is scheduled to close on 9 October 2019.

Read more on the PINS and developer's websites.

 


 

 

Notice of preliminary meeting on Riverside Energy Park

A 'Rule 6' letter published by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) indicates that a preliminary meeting will take place on 10 April 2019. This marks the start of the examination into the Riverside Energy Park scheme for  an "integrated energy park of over 50 megawatts generating capacity (comprising waste energy recovery, waste anaerobic digestion, battery storage and solar generation) and associated electrical connection".

Jonathan Green has been appointed as the single lead examiner.  

The Rule 6 letter sets out the examiner's initial assessment of the principal issues to consider, his procedural decisions and the draft examination timetable which is scheduled to close on 10 October 2019.

Read more on the PINS and developer's websites.


 

Consultation on major A1 highways scheme

 Highways England is consulting on the proposed 'A1 Northumberland, Alnwick to Ellingham' scheme following previous consultations in 2016 and the announcement of a "preferred route" in 2017. The current consultation will close on 8 April 2019.   

The scheme, as it meets the thresholds for a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) under the Planning Act 2008 regime, will require development consent. According to the Planning Inspectorate's (PINS) website, a formal application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) is expected in Q4 2019.

The highways improvement scheme would see, if granted development consent by the Secretary of State for Transport, approximately "8km of online widening between the single carriageway north of Denwick and the dual carriageway south of North Charlton". The road would be upgraded to a dual carriageway and there would be improvements to Charlton Mires Junction.

Highways England Project Manager, Mark Stoneman, said: “We are holding four public consultation events across the area which will provide people with an update on the progress we have made since the last consultation".