Warning: this article contains acronyms
The Cleve Hill Solar Park proposal exceeds 50MW in scale. This is so huge that it qualifies as a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)”. There’s a process for this…
Cleve Hill Solar Park explains in their literature that they will be “applying for a Development Consent Order (DCO) through the Planning Inspectorate. The application will be determined by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.”
So what does this actually mean?
The UK Parliament’s website provides a description:
What are Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)?
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) are large scale developments (relating to energy, transport, water, or waste) which require a type of consent known as “development consent”. The Planning Act 2008 introduced a new development consent process for NSIPs which was subsequently amended by the Localism Act 2011.
A Development Consent Order (DCO) automatically removes the need to obtain several separate consents, including planning permission and is designed to be a much quicker process than applying for these separately. An extension of the regime in 2013 now allows certain business and commercial projects to opt into this process.
So now you understand NISPs, you need to learn about Development Consent Orders or DCOs
Development Consent Orders (DCOs)
The DCO process starts when an application is formally accepted by the National Infrastructure Planning Unit and lasts approximately 12-15 months. The process however, is front-loaded with a number of pre-application consultation requirements, which, depending on the complexity of the project, can take a number of years to carry out.
The final decision on granting a DCO rests with the Secretary of State for that field. The National Infrastructure Planning website provides a number of guidance on the processes.
For those who like the detail, the National Infrastructure Planning website contains a guidance page with many PDFs. There are significant fees associated with making applications under this scheme and no doubt Cleve Hill Solar will be examining these in detail and it would be great if local residents could do the same.
Note that National Infrastructure Planning say ‘the process is front-loaded with pre-application requirements’. This explains the right hand side of Cleve Hill Solar Park’s consultation timetable:
You’ll see this suggests a PIER Publication at the beginning of Q1/Q2 2018.
OK, I hear you. You want to know what a PIER is don’t you?
Cleve Hill’s literature says:
Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR)
The PEIR will build upon the findings from the earlier scoping documents, as well as the feedback received through consultation. It will incorporate the findings of the surveys and environmental assessments that have been carried out. This will enable consultees to develop an informed view of the potential impacts the Cleve Hill Solar Park may have on the local environment. In our second phase of consultation, we will be seeking feedback on the findings of the PEIR.
So now you’re an expert on PEIRS. But notice the ‘earlier scoping documents’ – where are these I wondered? Again from the literature:
A Scoping Report will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. This will present the development proposals and will describe how we will assess any potential impacts to the existing environment. The feedback that Cleve Hill Solar Park
Ltd receives on this document from the local planning authorities and statutory consultees will result in a Scoping Opinion from PINS, which will be made publicly available.
Well, I figured the Scoping Report itself was quite possibly also going to be in the public domain, so I went hunting and found that the National Infrastructure Planning website has a section dedicated to Cleve Hill Solar Park.
I’ve not had time to explore it in-depth yet, but it includes some ‘s51 advice’ which records the advice given to the developer by NIP and three other documents, one of which is a 109 page scoping report.
I would encourage a read of this – in one minute I’ve already found this on page 64:
352. Based on the number of recorded heritage assets within the Development site it is anticipated that the likely environmental effects could consist of:
- Damage or destruction of known archaeological sites; and
- Damage or destruction of unknown archaeological sites.
The featured image at the top of this post is from that scoping document