I know that residents are not normally involved in the consultation process until the decisions have been made, and with my neighbours, I have been collating the regular lack of publicity and invitations to information sessions. I live a mere 200m from one of the proposed sites and with my neighbours, were not included in invitations to an information evening about the proposed “Cable Relay Station” which will have a huge impact and blight on our lives and businesses.
However, on Friday I became aware of some rather alarming news;
A little while ago Vattenfall changed the dates of publication of the PEIA and thereby appear to have engineered a situation where the report is too late for discussion in Council meetings in November and too early for the meeting in December.
In County Council speak; the result of this is that the consultation period (27/10 - 4/12) does not fit into any of the County Council’s scheduled Environmental Development and Transport Committee dates and will therefore be taken as an “urgent Decision”, i.e. decision to be taken by Chief Officer (Executive Director of Community and Environmental Services in consultation with the EDT Committee Chair and Vice Chair.
This means Norfolk County Council is going to use delegated powers to process the statutory response to the inspectorate. As I see it, this tactic avoids public scrutiny via Cabinet. At the Cabinet meeting at NNDC last week where the Dong application was discussed many councillors only became aware of issues because well informed members of the public were able to speak. As mentioned above, I am really concerned that the publicity of the Vattenfall proposal has been limited and many people are just not yet aware of the huge scope of this project, or the choices available. One of my neighbours visited the building associated with the Sheringham Shoal offshore generation and described it as more akin to a nuclear power station and the constant hum being very intrusive.
So, not only is Norfolk facing two/three huge infrastructure projects (with probably more to follow), but the dates of one of them is resulting in an absence of the normal public scrutiny………!
I can’t believe that Norfolk residents are being hoodwinked in such a callous manner.
Do you have any powers to ensure that there is full, open and proper public consultation on such an important issue?
As the project has not yet been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate (the Inspectorate), we have no formal powers to intervene on consultees behalf. I would therefore encourage you to contact the developer directly to make your concerns heard as the Applicant has a statutory duty to take your views into account. However, if you feel your comments are not being taken into account, I would advise you to write to your local authority and set out why you think the Applicant is failing to conduct its consultation properly.
The Norfolk Vanguard draft Statement of Community Consultation is currently with Norfolk County Council for consultation. This document sets out how Vattenfall will conduct their statutory consultation and prior to finalisation of their draft it was sent to Norfolk County Council for their feedback. Therefore they have an opportunity to comment on the proposed dates of public consultation.
The statutory consultation period will not be the only opportunity for Norfolk County Council to comment on the proposals. Once the applications are submitted to the Inspectorate the Council will be invited to comment on whether the Applicant has fulfilled its consultation duties. The local authority’s comments on the Applicant’s consultation will be taken into account when the Acceptance Inspector makes their decision whether to accept the application for Examination.
Local authorities have a very important role in the 2008 Act process. If the Norfolk Vanguard project is accepted for Examination, the Examining Authority will invite Norfolk County Council to submit a Local Impact Report (LIR), which can give details of the likely impact of the proposed development on the authority’s area. In coming to a decision on whether or not to grant consent for the project, the Secretary of State must have regard to any LIRs that are submitted by the deadline. Norfolk County Council will also have an opportunity to submit written representations and make oral representations at hearings.
A copy of your correspondence has been placed on our records and will be presented to the Inspector at Acceptance, together with the application documents and local authorities’ comments on the Applicant’s consultation.
After the decision has been made regarding whether to accept the application for Examination all documents used to inform the decision will be published on our website. If the application for development consent is formally accepted you will be able to submit your views in relation to the project which will be considered by the Examining Authority during the Examination. The Inspectorate has published a series of advice notes which explain the Examination process, including information on how to get involved; of particular interest are advice notes 8.1 to 8.5. These are available at: attachment 1