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A reshuffle and Rampion

Angus Walker picture-13This entry reports on the recent ministerial reshuffle and consent being granted for the Rampion offshore windfarm.

Ministerial reshuffle

Over the last few days the Prime Minister has been sacking ministers, moving them and bringing them into office, the most wide-ranging reshuffle of this Parliament, 83% of the way through it. The relevant changes at the four departments that use the Planning Act 2008 regime (communities and local government, energy and climate change, transport and food, environment and rural affairs) are as follows:

The only change at Secretary of State level is that Liz Truss has replaced Owen Paterson as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She has about six weeks to decide what to do about the Thames Tideway Tunnel application, jointly with continuing communities Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.

Nick Boles leaves as planning minister, and his role is being taken up by Brandon Lewis, who is responsible for housing as well. Penny Mordaunt (of Splash! fame - she stopped being shown in a swimsuit on Wikipedia pretty sharpish on Wednesday), supports Brandon Lewis on 'planning casework' and covers communites. It's not quite clear how planning matters will divide up between the two of them. Lord Ahmad also becomes a CLG minister, and Kris Hopkins remains in charge of planning policy relating to wind farms - is planning now split between three ministers?

Claire Perry and John Hayes become transport ministers. Claire Perry becomes responsible for rail and freight, and John Hayes for roads and maritime.

Amber Rudd becomes a minister at energy and climate change, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Climate Change, in fact. Matthew Hancock becomes a minister at both energy and climate change and business, innovation and skills - there are quite a few doing double duty.  He is Minister for Energy.

Rampion offshore wind farm

On Wednesday, the 20th consent for a development consent order (DCO) application was issued, for the Rampion offshore wind farm off the Sussex coast.

The application was first made on 18 December 2012, but was withdrawn on 2 January 2013. The application was resubmitted on 1 March 2013 (apparently after some local authorities that didn't want to be consulted were consulted) and accepted this time on 25 March.

The facts and stats on the application are as follows:

  • project: up to 175 wind turbines (or 'wind turbine generators') generating up to 700MW of electricity
  • promoter: E.On Climate and Renewables
  • three inspectors, Lorna Walker, Glyn Roberts and Frances Fernandes (two of these worked on Hinkley Point C and two on Brig y Cwm)
  • 212 relevant representations, a medium number
  • 60 written representations, on the high side
  • 215 questions in the first round - pretty high
  • two open floor hearings, one compulsory acquisition hearing and 10 issue-specific hearings, four of which were on the development consent order (DCO) and the 'deemed marine licences' it contains
  • three Local Impact Reports, from Brighton & Hove, the South Downs National Park Authority and a joint one from West Sussex, Horsham, Mid Sussex, Adur and Worthing
  • examination exactly six months, recommendation one day less than three months, decision one day less than three months
  • 502 days from (second) application to decision, i.e. 16 1/2 months, about average.

Additional notes: the South Downs National Park Authority wanted the application refused on several grounds, but the Government disagreed.

The panel of inspectors issued its own draft DCO for comment towards the end of the examination, in November 2013.

There are two 'deemed marine licences' in the DCO, one for the turbines and one for the export cables, in two separate schedules.

The Government has not made much change to the DCO recommended by the panel. It has removed a provision that allowed the five year period for the development to be extended, and has added 'tailpiece' restrictions into the deemed marine licence. The final DCO is quite long at 124 pages.

There will now be a gap on the decision front, but then there will be four decisions in ten days in early September: the A556 highway improvements, the Killingholme power station, the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Clocaenog onshore wind farm, keeping officials at all four reshuffled departments busy over the summer.

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