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Comment by Emma Harling-Phillips, Energy and Infrastructure Planning Partner
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s recent announcement of a digital revolution in our railways with the new TransPennine route is welcome news that our railway infrastructure may be about to enter the 21st Century at last. Whilst we can applaud the advancements in engineering heralded by our Victorian forebears, this early development of rail travel in the UK means that we are now living with antiquated railways that would require billions of pounds of investment to upgrade them to the high speed lines that exist elsewhere. We therefore need to find ways to upgrade and improve our existing infrastructure to make trains faster and more reliable. The digital signalling technology at the heart of the announcement will allow trains to run closer to each other, providing much needed increased capacity on lines without significant engineering changes. Let’s hope this is the first of many digital upgrades around the country.
In an attempt to speed up delivery of new infrastructure and improve the provision of more ambitious transport projects which require the promotion of a Hybrid Bill, proposals have been published with that would streamline the hybrid bill procedure. The intention is that the proposals will be adopted by Parliament in time for the petitioning procedure on the HS2 Phase 2a Bill – no doubt with a view to learning lessons. See more analysis below.
Turning to regulation and practice, the long awaited reform of compulsory purchase legislation is finally underway (see more details below). Whilst it may not represent the wholesale reform that practitioners were calling for, it does introduce some key changes. It puts the "no scheme principle" for assessing compensation following compulsory acquisition on a statutory basis for the first time, although it remains to be seen whether this will bring to an end the era of litigating this issue through the courts. Also significant is the bringing into force of the power for Transport for London to jointly promote CPOs with the Greater London Authority and with Mayoral Development Corporations. This change is intended to allow cross-funding of transport schemes which unlock residential or mixed use development and may be helpful in bringing forward over station development – the “hot” industry topic of the moment. Alongside the land value capture models being promoted by Transport for London, this may assist it in finding smarter funding models for our transport infrastructure in the Capital.
Updating Parliament's Private Business Standing Orders
Parliament's review of hybrid bill procedure in the light of criticisms made during the passage of the HS2 Phase 1 Bill has resulted in a set of proposed changes to the Private Business Standing Orders (PrBSOs).
The changes, which have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament, will be in place in time to be applied to the HS2 Phase 2a (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill, which is currently awaiting its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
The proposed changes include allowing petitions to be submitted electronically, clarification of the procedure for dealing with late petitions and the introduction of a minimum petitioning period of 25 days in both Houses. The proposals would also allow petitions to be grouped in an attempt to speed up the petitioning process, if implemented, and petitioners would no longer have an automatic right to be heard by a Select Committee.
Richard Bull, Parliamentary Agent at Pinsent Masons said: "The review of the hybrid bill procedure acknowledges that the application of PrBSOs to hybrid bills is "imperfect" and sets out a very welcome long-term aim of producing a bespoke set of hybrid bill standing orders for the first time.
Welsh government pledges "bespoke infrastructure consenting process"
In Prosperity for All: the national strategy, the Welsh government sets out its long-term strategy for infrastructure in order to "drive sustainable growth and combat climate change". The plans include the introduction of a bespoke infrastructure consenting process and a commitment to renewable energy.
The four key themes of this strategy are the same as those set out in 'Taking Wales Forward': (i) prosperous and secure; (ii) healthy and active; (iii) ambitious and learning; and (iv)united and connected. The new strategy sets out the government's "vision for each theme" illustrating how it will "contribute to prosperity for all". The strategy states that the "right planning system" is "crucial" for delivering the objectives contained in the strategy.
The plans include the establishment of a National Development Framework for land-use and a new National Infrastructure Commission "to strengthen the governance and strategic planning of major infrastructure investments".
In the strategy, the Welsh Government pledges to "establish a bespoke infrastructure consenting process which is responsive to business and community needs" in order to support and underpin sustainable economic growth and to "decarbonise our energy supply". The new National Development Framework will set out a "20-year land use plan for Wales, guiding strategic development" and be supported by the new National Infrastructure Commission for Wales.
Tackling regional inequality and promoting integration of services are key themes throughout the strategy, which notes that the Welsh government will require "co-ordinated planning of new homes, facilities and infrastructure by local authorities, health bodies, housing associations and other key partners".
The strategy also includes a pledge to design major infrastructure projects in order to join up public services and development "to maximise regional benefits".
Low carbon energy and greater use of renewable energy sources are highlighted as important economic opportunities, with the "potential to cut carbon emissions while benefitting local areas". The strategy includes a pledge to set out a "low carbon pathway" for certainty of action and investment, with targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040.
"Digital Revolution" of rail network to improve northern journeys
Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced that "we are about to see a digital revolution in our railways" with the new TransPennine route. Major upgrades, being rolled out as part of the Great North Rail Project, mean the route is set to be the first digitally controlled intercity rail line in the country by 2022.
The government is developing digital signalling technology across the region to ensure a safer and more reliable railway. This technology is already used successfully to operate the London Underground.
Network Rail will receive up to £5 million in funding to develop and implement this technology between Manchester and York. A £450 million digital railway fund was also announced in the Chancellor's Statement last Autumn.
This announcement should be read in conjunction with developments on high speed rail and a record £13 billion investment for improving journeys through expanding motorways, scraping pacer trains and developing high speed and digitally controlled rail networks.
Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 provisions come into force
Key provisions of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 came into force on 22 September 2017 making changes to the compulsory purchase regime in England and Wales. In summary:
- s.32 establishes the "no scheme principle" for assessing compensation following compulsory acquisition on a statutory basis for the first time.
- s.33 repeals Part 4 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 so that a second claim for compensation is no longer possible where the land acquired secures planning permission for a more valuable use.
- s.34 requires an acquiring authority to publish notice that a CPO has been confirmed within 6 weeks of confirmation (previously there was no specific time limit).
- s.35 abolishes the Bishopsgate principle so that business tenants with unprotected leases are entitled to claim compensation on the same basis as licensees.
- s.36 allows Transport for London to jointly promote CPOs with the Greater London Authority and with Mayoral Development Corporations. The intention is to allow cross-funding of transport schemes which unlock residential or mixed use development.
Raj Gupta, compulsory purchase and compensation specialist at Pinsent Masons said: “The House of Lords and Supreme Court have made numerous attempts to resolve the complexities inherent in application of the no scheme principle (or Pointe Gourde principle) without lasting success. It remains to be seen whether placing the principle on a statutory footing will finally bring an end to the litigation”.
“The abolition of the Bishopsgate principle will be welcomed by many practitioners who considered it unfair,” said Gupta. He also went on to comment that “other reforms are widely regarded as sensible”.
DCLG has also produced a model claim form for compensation with guidance as to its use. Updated general guidance on Compulsory Purchase and the Crichel Down Rules is expected shortly.
ScottishPower calls for government support to meet rising demand for wind power
ScottishPower Renewables has announced that it has reached the 2,000 megawatt (MW) milestone for UK wind power capacity following the completion of a £650million infrastructure project. The company has called for "politicians and regulators to support the future development of onshore wind in Scotland - one of cheapest forms of green energy - citing the need to hit carbon reduction targets and support the anticipated increase in demand to charge electric vehicles".
Citing the huge price reductions delivered for offshore wind through competitive auctions, ScottishPower has called for a similar system for onshore wind to drive competition in the industry. There is significant potential for viable projects in Scotland according to ScottishPower.
Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said: “If the UK Government is serious about reducing carbon emissions and having enough clean power to support the huge expected growth in electric vehicles, then more onshore wind is essential. One new onshore wind turbine could power around 7,000 electric vehicles, but we need to act now to meet growing demand.”
See the press release here.
Climate Week: Speech made by Climate Change Minister, Claire Perry
Climate Change Minister, Claire Perry, has reflected on Climate Week in New York ahead of the first meeting of the Green Finance Taskforce. See last week's DCO Bulletin.
Climate Week is the first time since the US announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that a major meeting of international climate leaders has taken place. Perry commented on the huge opportunity that the global trend towards a low carbon economy presents for Britain.
However, Perry said that "decarbonisation is going to take more than government policy". Her view is that both private and state funding will be required to achieve the UK's ambitious aims. The International Energy Agency has estimated that more than $13 trillion will be required between now and 2030 in order to fund the clean energy that signatory counties of the Paris Agreement will need. Perry believes this puts the UK at an advantage, as "we are the greatest finance capital in the world".
Perry stressed the importance of ensuring that the UK remains "the financial services centre of the world, and the global hub of financial innovation", and continues by explaining her recent work with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay to establish a Green Finance Taskforce. The Taskforce, chaired by Sir Roger Gifford, comprises leaders of the finance sector and met for the first time on 26 September.
The Taskforce is officially endorsing its recommendations on climate-related financial disclosures which are designed to encourage publicly listed companies to align their climate-related risk management with their financial governance.