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Comment by Heidi Slater, Infrastructure Planning Legal Director
In the shadow of hurricane Irma, this week's news sees the United Nations spearheading a timely initiative to mobilise finance for climate-resilient infrastructure, better able to withstand the impacts of extreme weather.
Closer to home, we note the launch of an engagingly-entitled report, ‘Ideas above your Station’, which aims to encourage exploration of the potential for over-station development in London. The report, published by the Centre for London, and supported by Innova Investment (a JV between Capital & Counties Properties PLC and Network Rail), outlines a plethora of factors currently believed to be constraining over-station development – hurdles ranging from governance and finance to planning and politics, and challenges involving engineering and operational obstacles. All of these difficulties are worth defeating, the report argues, because of the significance of the potential benefits that could flow from maximising opportunities to locate new development above both underground and overground rail stations within our crowded capital city. Over-station development would “enable sustainable high-density development”; “make efficient use of land and assets held by public bodies such as Transport for London and Network Rail (who together have plans which could bring forward c.15,000 homes in coming years)”; “generate development receipts that can help fund infrastructure improvements”; and “create new civic ecosystems of public space”, improving connectivity and community facilities. Clearly crucial to the realisation of such attractive benefits is the adoption of a co-ordinated strategic approach, based on strong leadership and governance, coupled with intelligent land-use planning and urban design principles.
You can catch up quickly with other recent transport and energy infrastructure developments below. Highways England is driving forward major new road schemes, aimed at cutting congestion and improving journeys. Expressions of full support – if not fully-fledged pledges for additional funding – abound for the Northern Powerhouse and related high-speed rail links between cities in the north, whilst another round of consultation has been announced for the draft Airports NPS. Meanwhile, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has expressed concern over the UK’s infrastructure pipeline as Brexit looms.
Turning to energy matters, last week's debate in the Commons included welcome cross-party support for tidal lagoon power generation, and particularly, that proposed in Swansea Bay. Additional pressure was put on government to urgently respond to the Hendry Review and back the project. More good energy-related news also came on Monday with the announcement of the latest Contracts for Difference (subsidy) awards, with offshore wind projects again being the main winners, having significantly reduced the cost of energy year on year, and news that the tidal lagoon project proposed for Cardiff Bay has secured its grid connection agreement.
The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond announced yesterday that he will deliver the government's autumn statement on 22 November, after which we may see more details emerge in relation to specific government support for energy and infrastructure projects as the Brexit journey continues.
Preliminary meeting on the Eggborough CCGT scheme proposals set for later this month.
The Rule 6 letter issued by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) indicates that the preliminary meeting will take place on 27 September, marking the start of the examination into the scheme proposals. The letter also sets out the procedural decisions that have been made in respect of examination of the scheme proposals and the draft examination timetable which will run for 6 months.
View the Rule 6 letter here and more details on the PINS website.
Green Investment Group (GIG) announces £38m investment for Ferrybridge energy recovery facility
(GIG) announced a £38 million funding package for Wheelabrator Technologies to construct the Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 (FM2) last week.
The Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 Power Station Order 2015 was made on 28 October 2015 and authorises the construction and operation of a multifuel power station (up to 90 MWe) fueled by "waste derived fuels from various sources of processed municipal waste, commercial and industrial waste and waste wood" at the site of the existing Ferrybridge coal-fired power station in Knottingley, West Yorkshire
The £38m funding commitment is the "first investment to be completed following the acquisition of the Green Investment Bank" by Macquarie and part of a wider £207m syndicate.
Recommendation issued on M20 Junction 10A improvement scheme
The examining authority has issued its recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport following the end of the examination into Highways England's improvement scheme on 2 June 2017. The Secretary of State now has a further three months to consider the findings and decide whether or not to grant development consent.
The scheme proposals are for a new junction to include a roundabout over the motorway, new slip roads and a new link road, with traffic signals on parts of the junction and two '3 lane' bridges.
See more on the Planning Inspectorate's (PINS) website.
Highways England - new improvement schemes
Transport secretary, Chris Grayling has announced the "next step in major investment for south-west as A303 Stonehenge plans [are] published".
Grayling said that "this government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future, underlined by our record £15 billion funding for road schemes".
"This major investment in the south-west will transform the A303 and benefit those locally by cutting congestion and improving journey times. It will also boost the economy, linking people with jobs and businesses with customers - driving forward our agenda to build a country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few," said Grayling.
Meanwhile, Highways England has launched a consultation into a £102 million proposal to improve congestion at the Stockbury roundabout, which links junction 5 of the M2 and the A249 between Maidstone and Sittingbourne. Works could start as early as 2020.
The public has been asked to provide comments on Option 12A, under which the roundabout will be enlarged to allow for a new through-route for cars using the A249, amongst other changes.
Highways England has also announced its preferred options for upgrading the route to the Port of Liverpool and creating a new junction on the M56 near Runcorn following a series of public consultations earlier in 2017.
To ease congestion on the A5036, a new '3-mile' dual carriageway has been proposed between the motorway network and the port and the new £300 million deep-water container terminal. The new junction 11a on the M56 will create a new link to the Mersey Gateway bridge and improve local access to the motorway.
Infrastructure damage and extreme weather to be examined
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is holding an expert forum in Rabat to discuss climate-resilient infrastructure finance. In partnership with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the forum will bring together experts to find responses to climate change in the infrastructure area, share best practice and discuss how to create an environment supportive of climate resilience.
Forum discussions will explore international climate finance mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund, as well as common principles for climate resilience metrics being developed by the multilateral development banks for their investments.
The conference will also discuss donor support for climate-resilient infrastructure through international climate finance mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environmental Facility.
Cost of renewable energy plummets as extra capacity delivered
The UK government has announced the award of 11 renewable energy projects which will generate enough energy to power 3.6 million homes.
The awards were made through the second contracts for difference (CfD) auction and are worth a total of £176 million per year. However, costs have dropped significantly since the first auction in 2015, with the cost of offshore wind falling by nearly 50% to just £57.50 per megawatt-hour.
“Today's announcement sees the offshore wind sector in particular take a significant step forward with some truly ground breaking pricing which would appear to support fully the campaign to reduce the costs of offshore wind,” said energy law expert Ian McCarlie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.
Energy law expert Gareth Phillips, also of Pinsent Masons, said the prices agreed reflected continued reduction of costs in recent years.
“Certainty of ongoing government support for this technology has enabled significant confidence and investment in the supply chain, which has assisted cost reduction and wider economic stimulation,” Phillips said.
“This model can and should be followed for other marine renewable technologies, including tidal barrages and lagoons. There is a clear track record now for early subsidy support being rewarded through a lower cost of energy later in the life cycle of renewable energy projects,” Phillips said.
Read more on Out-Law.
Welsh MPs call for government response to Hendry Review into tidal lagoons
MPs have raised questions in the House of Commons on tidal lagoons and pressed for clarity about when the Government's response will be issued.
Neil Parish MP asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Guto Bebb what "discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the date of publication of the Government response to the Hendry review on tidal lagoons". Parish noted that "it is nine months since the Hendry review strongly endorsed the tidal lagoon at Swansea, where the rise and fall in the tide is the second highest in the world".
"It would unlock power for generations, not only on the Welsh side but on the other side of the Bristol channel," said Parish, who queried "when are Ministers going to make a decision?"
Supporters of the proposed tidal power scheme at Swansea Bay have warned that lack of government action is putting the project at risk.
The DCO Bulletin previously reported Charles Hendry's independent review of tidal lagoons earlier this year, after which he set out his recommendations, making it clear that streamlined environmental regulation was key to the future success of tidal lagoons. Following Hendry’s report, in February 2017 over one hundred MPs signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy calling for the government to start negotiations for financial support on the Swansea scheme as soon as possible.
The case remains that little in the way of progress has been made since the beginning of the year. Amongst MPs expressing their support for the project and concern at the lack of developments were Shadow Welsh Secretary Christina Rees and MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish. The MPs highlighted the unique opportunity that the Swansea Tidal Lagoon scheme presents in terms of developing a world leading practice in tidal energy, and emphasised the risk of losing investors if clear decisive action is not taken by the government soon.
Gareth Phillips, energy expert at Pinsent Masons has also addressed the risks that a hesitant approach may pose, pointing out that "the UK is not the only suitable location to pioneer tidal lagoon technology – it is competing for this privilege against other countries, including those close to home".
During the Commons debate, Guto Bebb stated that any decision made in respect of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon needed to be made “on a calculated basis looking at the facts”.
Albert Owen MP responded, saying that the "Hendry review was set up by the Conservative party, and the framework to finance these big projects was set up by the Conservatives. It is time, now, to stop talking and start delivering for Wales. I urge the Wales Office to stand up for Wales on this project and deliver for Wales".
Meanwhile, Theresa Villiers MP asked whether the "Minister [Bebb would] make renewable energy in Wales a priority so that it can play its full part in delivering our important goals on energy security and tackling climate change?" In response, Bebb said that "development of energy policy in Wales is about energy security" and that he and colleagues were considering a number of projects.
The company behind the Swansea Bay project, Tidal Lagoon Power, has this week secured the grid connection for the much larger Cardiff Bay tidal lagoon project through agreement with National Grid.
Chancellor hints at new funding for northern infrastructure in autumn budget
Improving productivity and transport links in northern England will be "right at the top of" the government's agenda ahead of the budget this autumn, the chancellor has said.
However, Philip Hammond did not go as far as to commit to additional money for the so-called 'Northern Powerhouse' during a meeting with regional mayors in the north of England this week, according to recent press reports.
Business leaders have recently urged the government to re-commit to a high speed rail link between the cities of the north of England, as first announced by then chancellor George Osborne as part of his March 2016 Budget speech (see more details below). They did so after Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, appeared to back a new Crossrail 2 line across London shortly after putting electrification of the Transpennine route between Manchester, Leeds and York under review.
Hammond met the three 'metro mayors' in the north of England to discuss boosting growth and productivity in the region: greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham; Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram; and Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen. Together, these three areas have a population of around five million and a combined economy worth more than £102 billion, according to government figures.
See more on Out-Law.
UK government urged to devolve more powers to the North to help increase funding for infrastructure
The UK government should devolve more powers to the North of England to help boost investment in infrastructure in the region, according to a new report published by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
The new "revenue raising and borrowing powers" could be used by a new Council of the North, that the report said should be established, to bring together local authority leaders, metropolitan mayors, businesses and academics to "design, plan and deliver appropriate infrastructure across the region that will match its needs and priorities".
ICE's report said that, in addition to a new Council of the North, a new Northern Infrastructure Board should be established. The Board should work with "local communities, relevant government departments, regulatory and delivery bodies, local government, businesses and academia" to identify the area's infrastructure requirements, and devise a new 'Northern Infrastructure Strategy', it said.
Earlier this year, Pinsent Masons launched a new study aimed at pinpointing the opportunities and challenges that arise from the increasing convergence between digital technology and physical infrastructure, and how they might be addressed. The results from the study are expected to be published this autumn.
Read more on Out-Law.
MP says Northern Powerhouse Rail 'will happen'
Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, has said that a Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) line from Liverpool to Hull "will happen". Recent press reports say that Berry went on to state that the government is committed to improving infrastructure in northern England.
However, according to reports, he did not offer any specific details including timescales for the NPR project.
Berry's comments come as former Chancellor George Osborne wrote in the Financial Times that the project "must be included in the next stage of the government's high-speed network".
A petition urging Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to support the rail improvements has garnered over 70,000 signatures.
50 business and civic leaders from the north of England have also written a letter to the government demanding an increase in transport spending and calling on the government "to back NPR".
London Mayor calls for boost in infrastructure across UK
Ahead of meetings with the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has reportedly expressed concerns over the UK's infrastructure pipeline.
Khan is expected to discuss increases to transport investment across the UK with Lord Adonis, which the Mayor views as essential in light of Brexit.
Khan has reportedly said: “I will continue to put the case to government that good-quality, modern infrastructure, including new roads, railways and state-of-the-art broadband and mobile connectivity is crucial if this country is to remain a global economic powerhouse".
“London grinding to a halt is not in the nation’s interests, and nor is it in the interests of London that the North of England’s transport network continues to be woefully inadequate,” said Khan.
New study commissioned to explore the 'metro underground' transit system
Bristol City Council has reportedly commissioned "an initial pre-feasibility study to look at a metro underground as one of the potential solutions" to the city’s increasingly crowded road network. The study is intended to determine if the proposed £2.5bn “mass transit” underground is financially viable.
According to the industry press, Mayor, Marvin Rees, has said that the city needs a “three dimensional solution” to these transport problems which will require underground and over-ground routes “connecting the key communities and economic areas”.
More consultation on draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS)
Transport secretary, Chris Grayling, confirmed in a written statement to parliament on 7 September that a further period of consultation on the Airports NPS is necessary in order for updated evidence to be taken into account.
Documents including the government’s final air quality plan and revised aviation demand forecasts were intended to be presented during the initial NPS consultation earlier this year, however the timing of the June 2017 general election meant this was not feasible. Grayling has therefore confirmed that it is necessary to allow for another shorter period of consultation during which this further evidence can be taken into consideration. Former Senior President of the Tribunal, Sir Jeremy Sullivan will be overseeing the consultation process.
In July this year it was announced that the final NPS is expected to be put before the House of Commons for a vote in the first half of 2018. Originally it was anticipated that the final version would go to a vote in winter 2017-18. Grayling has said that this additional consultation period is not expected to cause any further delay to parliamentary approval, and designation of the NPS.
HS2 – Progress Report
Confirmation of Phase 2b of the line, which is scheduled to open in 2033, came in July as legislation enabling the construction of Phase 2a between Fradley, West Midlands, and Crewe was introduced into Parliament. The High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill will effectively act as a planning application for that section of the line, which is expected to open in 2027 if approved by Parliament.
Phase 2a will connect at Crewe with the western part of phase 2b to run to Manchester and Warrington. The eastern part of Phase 2b will run to a new East Midlands Hub station at Toton, Nottinghamshire, before continuing on to Leeds and South Yorkshire. The line will then connect with the existing East Coast Main Line.
The Phase 2a route is largely as announced in 2015, but with three significant refinements. First, the connection to the West Coast Main Line and the start of a tunnel in Crewe are to be moved further south. Secondly, the construction railhead, later to be used as a maintenance depot, intended to be placed near Crewe at Basford is instead to be located near Stone. Thirdly, the government is consulting on proposals to develop a hub station at Crewe.
A consultation on the environmental impacts of the Phase 2a scheme is due to end on 30 September 2017.
Richard Bull, infrastructure expert and Parliamentary Agent at Pinsent Masons said: "It is only once the consultation responses have been considered and reported on by an independent assessor that MPs will be given the opportunity to debate the principle of the Bill. No date has been set for this".
"Following Second Reading, those who are "specially and directly affected" by the scheme will then be given an opportunity to petition with a view to mitigating the impacts. A select committee in the Commons will then spend several months considering the petitions," said Bull.
Bull said that after the Bill has been through all its Commons stages, it will need to be taken through "pretty much the same process in the House of Lords".
"So, Royal Assent is some way off – but is likely to have taken place by the time the Phase 2b Bill is introduced towards the end of 2019," said Bull.
New PINS advice note three on Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA)
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has issued an update to ‘Advice Note Three: EIA Notification and Consultation’ and the accompanying annexe for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) under the Planning Act 2008 regime. This update takes into account the legislative changes introduced by the recent Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017, and clarifies PINS' approach to EIA notification and consultation.
Network Rail (Felixstowe Branch Line Land Acquisition) (Agreements for Transfer) Order 2017
The Network Rail (Felixstowe Branch Line Land Acquisition) (Agreements for Transfer) Order 2017 was made on 31 August 2017.
The Order extends the powers under article 39 of the Felixstowe Branch Line and Ipswich Yard Improvement Order 2008 for Network Rail to enter into agreements with the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company and to exercise land acquisition powers.