North West Coast Connections Project - N Grid
Please find attached Friends of the Lake District's consultation response to the recent National Grid consultation on its PEIR for the North West Coast Connections Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
I would draw your attention to the significant failures in the consultation. These are due to
A: National Grid’s apparent misinterpretation of the EIA regulations and national planning policy on the setting of the Lake District National park; and
B: on restricting mitigation only to those areas of landscape and visual impact receptors which would suffer “Particularly significant effects” rather than “significant effect” as laid out in the EIA (Infrastructure) Regulations 2009.
C: Not enough ecological information provided to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment and the possibility that because there are alternative solutions (e.g. offshore), that the IROPI test would not be met under Article 6.4 of the Habitats Directive 1994.
We are also concerned that the costings for alternative route options which would avoid the issues raised above are not adequately described and evaluated in the consultation. Our concerns align with those of Ofgem whose current consultation on “North West Coast Connections – Consultation on the project’s Initial Needs Case and suitability for tendering” also raises these concerns when it states
However, we consider that the decision between NGET’s favoured use of a tunnel under Morecambe Bay and an alternative approach of using subsea cables around the bay is relatively finely balanced. We have concerns that significant changes in the cost of the tunnel, or additional work identified through the planning process [e.g. having to mitigate for impact on the National Park setting] could indicate in the future that the subsea cable option could be better value for consumers.
I would like to know what role PINS has in raising these issues with National Grid and whether they would prevent an application to PINS from “meeting the required standards to proceed to examination, including whether the developers consultation has been adequate” (PINS Advice note 8.1)
Thank you for your enquiry regarding National Grid’s recent consultation on the proposed North West Coast Connections Project.
Prior to commencing consultation, the Applicant is required to under section 47 of the Planning Act 2008 (PA2008); prepare a consultation strategy known as the Statement of Community Consultation (SoCC) and to seek agreement on their strategy with the relevant local authorities (i.e. those authorities whose administrative areas the route alignment would pass through). The Applicant has a duty under Section 49 of the PA2008 to take account of responses to consultation. All applications must be accompanied by a Consultation Report. In this document the Applicant must show that they have complied with the statutory pre-application consultation requirements, and that they have had regard to the responses.
The duty to consult on preliminary environmental information (PEI) derives from Regulation 10 of the Infrastructure Planning Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations 2009 (as amended)(the ‘EIA Regulations’). Regulation 2 of the ‘EIA Regulations’ defines PEI as “information referred to in Part 1 of Schedule 4 which—
(a) has been compiled by the applicant; and
(b) is reasonably required to assess the environmental effects of the development (and of any associated development)”
The Planning Inspectorate’s Advice Note 7 “Preliminary Environmental Information, Screening and Scoping” states that “PEI is not expected to replicate or be a draft of the ES. However, if the applicant considers this to be appropriate (and more cost-effective) it can be presented in this way. A good PEI document is one that enables consultees (both specialist and non-specialist) to understand the likely environmental effects of the proposed development and helps to inform their consultation responses on the proposed development.”
Upon submission of an application the Planning Inspectorate will write to relevant local authorities and ask for their views on whether or not the consultation has been adequate, if you have concerns regarding the adequacy of the consultation process in your area, you may therefore wish to contact the relevant local authorities, highlighting your concerns, so as to inform their adequacy of consultation response. At acceptance, the Planning Inspectorate will consider the Consultation Report, alongside any adequacy of consultation representation made by a local authority and the other application documents, before deciding whether or not to accept the application for examination in line with Section 55 of the PA2008. Appendix 3 of the Planning Inspectorate’s Advice Note 6: “Preparation and submission of application documents” sets out the information considered prior to accepting an application, which includes in section 3.3(a) “where applicable, the environmental statement required under the EIA Regulations and any scoping or screening opinions or directions” therefore the adequacy of any environmental impact assessment is a consideration for acceptance.
Until an Application is submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration, the Planning Inspectorate would not comment on whether an Applicant has met the required standards to proceed to examination, including whether the Applicant’s consultation has been adequate. We would strongly encourage you to continue to engage with the Applicant, feeding any concerns that you may have with either the assessment process or the consultation process to them and with the relevant local authority.