Planning Act Blog 230: Waste Water Projects Come Within Planning Act as MPs Criticise NPS

This is entry number 230, published on 5 April 2011, of a blog on the Planning Act 2008 infrastructure planning and authorisation regime. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry reports on the switch-on of waste water projects tomorrow and today's select committee report on the Waste Water National Policy Statement.

Switch-on for waste water projects

As of tomorrow, applications for waste water treatment plants (sewage works to you and me) above a size threshold must be made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), joining energy and transport projects. This is the first expansion of the regime since the IPC opened for business on 1 March 2010.

The size threshold is that a new waste water plant is able to treat the, er, output of at least 500,000 people, or an existing waste water plant is to expand by that amount. As with most (but not all) of the thresholds in the Act, it is the size of the expansion, not the size of the eventual expanded plant, that matters. For example, a 3,000,000-person facility could avoid the regime altogether by creeping up by a dozen separate 250,000-person increments (or do I mean the opposite of that word?).

Two areas remain to be brought into the regime. One, hazardous waste facilities, was expected to be brought in this April as well, but has been delayed, probably because the corresponding National Policy Statement (NPS) has not come out in draft yet. The other area, water supply, was expected to be brought in next year, but since there is not likely to be a Water Supply NPS in the near future due to lack of large enough projects, the switch-on date may also be delayed.

Tomorrow's switch-on could be fairly academic, since the draft Waste Water NPS, issued in November last year, only identifies two projects likely to come forward in the next five years. These are the reconstruction of the Deephams sewage treatment plant in Edmonton, north London (850,000 population, so well over the threshold), and the Thames Tunnel. The latter (reported in the last blog entry) is not a waste water treatment plant, but the government intends to use its powers to make the Planning Act apply to it.

Nevertheless it is still possible that an unplanned project comes forward. The Department for Transport did not anticipate any port projects, but I am working on one that is due to be submitted at the end of next...

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