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I also argue that this is not an entirely new provision. A six-week period for commencing proceedings applies at present in the case of statutory challenges to the development plan under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. So there is a useful precedent. Clause 13 strikes the right balance between the national interest and the interest of individuals who might want to challenge an NPS.
All the other amendments in the group would ensure that the time limit for bringing a legal challenge runs from the date of publication of the Secretary of States decision, which marks the end of the relevant administrative process. They argue that there should be greater clarity as to when the Secretary of State has made a decision in respect of these actions and that that point should be the publication of that decision. I am not sure that I agree with that in principle, but if the key concern is that there should be a clear announcement of a decision, I can give that assurance. I understand the noble Baronesss concerns that the Government should not make a decision that would affect peoples rights to bring a legal challenge but not announce it. I can certainly reassure the Committee and place it on record that, where the Secretary of State makes a decision that could give rise to legal
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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply and her assurance that, where the Government make a decision, it will be announced. It does not alter my marginal problem regarding a decision taken on a Friday with the possibility of an announcement not being made until Monday. I will need to study the noble Baronesss words with rather more care because, in such a situation, three days might be critical. I am grateful for the Ministers response. I know that she intends to be helpful and, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: These are probing amendments which contain a number of technical questions. The Bill defines the situation vis-Ã -vis power lines and pipelines in a particular way, and that needs to be expanded. Amendment No. 115 would include electricity cables below ground as well as above. I accept entirely that undergrounding major electricity power lines is a very expensive operation, but the reality is that from time to time it is done, and done for very good environmental reasons. I would not want a situation in which power lines could not be put underground because they had not been included in the Bill. Putting something underground may well not require planning permission, but that would be remarkable and might tempt a lot of landowners to start building subterranean houses, which I am sure is not the Bills intention. We need to debate that.
Amendment No. 117A deals with gas pipelines that do not carry what we consider to be gas, such as natural gas, but carbon dioxide. There is the question of whether gas lines carrying carbon dioxide are peripheral to the power station if they are involved in the process of carbon sequestration. Everybody hopes that carbon sequestration will work; they see it as a lifebelt for the coal industry. My view is that we do not know the cost of carbon sequestration; still less do we know the energy penalty of placing carbon sequestration on a coal-fired power station.
These are real questions. If we are to continue with coal-fired power stations in any numbers, while a pipeline may initially be peripheral to the planning application for the power station, we may in the end need to consider the construction of a carbon dioxide grid. That will be a major operation and we ought to think about it at this stage.
Concomitant to this line of thought is the suggestion that one of the best places to sequester carbon dioxide is under the North Sea in the holes from which we have extracted natural gas or oil. Indeed, it might
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Amendment No. 125 deals with the reuse of heat, which currently flows from power stations into the atmosphere or into the sea. One of the interesting things about the installation of the Bradwell power station 30 years ago was that, within a short period, the timber quay which had been built out into the Blackwater estuary was attacked by the Teredo worm. The Teredo worm is a tropical problem, but the heat outfalls from the Bradwell power station had raised the local temperature in the estuary to the point where the Teredo worm could flourish. That is a potential problem which we need to think about. The disposal of waste heat is a very real issue. I said enough about it earlier not to need to repeat how we might need to think about using it, but I am confident that it will be a major issue in the future and we need to think about it at this stage.
Amendment No. 133 is simple and straightforward, dealing with the issue of connectors which are not in the United Kingdom. The Bill adequately covers Wales and Scotlandit does not cover Northern Ireland; I do not think that we have any direct connectors to Northern Ireland at the moment, but I suspect that we ought to cover it in the Bill, because, if we do not, it is as sure as night follows day that, about 10 years from now, somebody will produce a connector to Northern Ireland. We ought to think about that. We have connectors to France, to the Low Countries for gas, and it is possible that we will have direct connectors from Norway to England. The Bill does not provide for that. These are developments which one cannot predict, but they might happen. We need to give careful thought to the possibility, because, if we do not, it is again as sure as night follows day that somebody will at some point raise the issue and it will be an embarrassment. There is again the question of the relationship with the marine Bill, which is yet to come. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on this broad spectrum of subjects. I beg to move.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: Ministers in Northern Ireland come and go and it is a long time since I was there, but certainly when I was there I called on the Scottish commissioner in Brussels to discuss what view the EU would take of a connector to Northern Ireland. I should be very surprised indeed if it had not arrived in the intervening period.
Lord Berkeley: I have one amendment in this group, which would reduce the limit size for generating stations onshore from 50 minimum to 30 minimum megawatts. It is probably a much better figure, although we can debate those numbers all night and go through all the different statistics. I know that my noble friend has tabled some amendments. It depends on whether one believes that having a lower figure would make it easier to get planning permission through this route than another one. Probably many of the amendments in this grouping reflect that. But I am sure that we can talk about this afterwards, outside the Committee.
I have one question for my noble friend on the gas transporter pipelines in the government amendments. It is always important to try to understand what is meant in legislation like this. How do we understand the construction of a pipeline by a gas transporter? A gas transporter to me is something that transports gas; it could be a ship, a lorry or a train. The only way I know of constructing a pipeline is either by digging a trench and welding the bits of pipe together and putting it back in or, occasionally, by something called thrust boring, whereby you can build pipelines under rivers. You start to drill on one side of it and the drill can go round corners and it is quite clever. But I would not have called that drill a gas transporter. When my noble friend comes to wind up on this mammoth number of small amendments, perhaps he will explain what a gas transporter is and how it builds a pipeline.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am responsible for Amendments Nos. 122 and 126, which are designed to address the offshore infrastructure, as has been mentioned by previous Members of the Committee. The Minister, with his dual ministerial function, is probably more aware than anyone of the connection of this Bill with the Climate Change Bill and the Energy Bill. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith has indicated that there is a fourth Bill connected with thisthe forthcoming marine Bill, which is at draft stage. It makes provisions for offshore infrastructure, so I seek through my amendments to probe the Minister on how this Bill will interact with the forthcoming marine Bill.
My concern is that, as this current Bill is presented, it ignores the advent of the forthcoming Bill and the creation of the Marine Management Organisation. As the World Wildlife Fund and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds pointed out in their excellent brief, this Bill gives the Infrastructure Planning Commission the power to determine proposals in the marine environmentnotably offshore generating stations of more than 100 megawatts in Clause 15 and airports in Clause 22. That is really inappropriate in light of the fact that we have a draft marine Bill, which actually has provision for a marine spatial planning system and a specialist marine management organisationthe MMOto simplify the plethora of regulatory regimes in the marine environment.
Given that the IPC has a role in the marine environment running counter to the Governments stated aim of generating a strategic overview and reducing complexity at sea through marine planning, how are these two things reconciled by the Minister? Within the marine environment, the MMO should surely make all decisions on behalf of the Secretary of State acting with Welsh Ministers when they are involved because of the devolved powers to the coastal regions adjacent to Wales.
These two amendments would mean that the decision-maker remained the Secretary of Stateor the Secretary of State in collaboration with Welsh Ministersuntil the MMO was created through the marine Bill. To my mind, that is a sensible arrangement and I hope that the noble Lord will agree that there is an imperfection in the way that the current Bill is drafted in that it fails to recognise where we will be taking this legislation when the marine Bill turns up.
Lord Greaves: I support the words of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, about the forthcoming marine Bill and the way in which this legislationindeed, the whole of the planning systemwill link in with and be changed by the provisions of that Bill, which we are expecting to see in the next Session. It will be interesting to hear what the Government have to say about this. It may well be that some more thought is needed before the Bill is finally passed in this House.
Lord Reay: I am responsible for Amendment No. 24, which would raise the threshold for an onshore wind power stationor wind farm as they are widely although quite inexplicably knownfrom 50 to 300 megawatts. It is true that at present there are few onshore planning applications in the pipeline for onshore wind power stations of more than 50 megawatts. That would require, for example, 25 turbines of 2 megawatts each. However, the threshold is not out of reach for developers as turbines increase in power all the time and the incentive would be there for developers both to increase the size of turbines and increase the number of them per application. That provides an even more horrible prospect for the benighted denizens of and visitors to our beautiful upland landscapes.
Ideally, I would have liked wind power stations to have been excluded from the Bill altogether, but as they are not mentioned by name it is not easy to see how that could have been done. The threshold of 50 megawatts applies to all onshore generating power stations. Of course, that is a ludicrously low figure in relation to gas, coal-fired or nuclear power stations, which typically range from 800 megawatts upwards to 2,000 or more megawatts per station. Nor was it necessary for that threshold to be set so low to catch the Severn barrage. It could have been set so low only in order to catch wind power stationsif not many of them today, perhaps more tomorrow and more still if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, were adopted, which I think was his purpose.
In doing this, the Government are abusing the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to deal with nationally significant infrastructure projects. Indeed, that is the title of this clause. How could they conceivably justify calling a 50 megawatt wind farm a nationally significant project? I should like the Ministers on the Front Bench opposite to answer that question directly this evening.
A wind power station or wind farm of 50 megawatt installed capacity, which is what capacity means in the Bill because it can operate only part of the time owing to the variability of the wind, has on average in this country a load factor of 27 per cent. That means that a 50 megawatt power station as described in the Bill can develop only about 15 megawatts of power over the year. A thermal power station can operate at 80 per cent plus of capacity and so produce 50 to 100 times the amount of electricity of a 50 megawatt wind power station. How can they be talked about in the same breath?
My amendment raises the threshold by a factor of six. This would take account of the load factorit is misleading in the case of wind power and talking in terms of the installed factor because of the huge difference between themand doubles that. This still
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Lord Jenkin of Roding: I shall make two points, the first of which I have discussed with my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. Amendment No. 125, looking at the definition of a generating station, would add a requirement that it should be capable of generating heat. This would clearly be highly desirable wherever it was feasible. However, because many of the generating stations that would fall within the purview of the Bill will be nuclear power stationsI do not think that anybody is contemplating putting a nuclear power station into the old Battersea sitethey will be remote. It is now well recognised that to try to use the heat from a such a power station may be wholly impractical. I have been given the example of when there was an application for a combined cycle gas turbine at West Burton. It was made clear that while the Government certainly wanted to see if there was a possibility of CHP and the use of heat, the conclusion was:
The Secretary of State is of the view that the Company has seriously explored the possibility of CHP and agrees from the evidence presented that there is no existing heat load within a reasonable distance of the application site to justify amending the proposal to be CHP.
The point forcefully made to me on behalf of the Nuclear Industry Association is that if my noble friends amendment were to be added to the Bill, however much one might recognise the desirability of promoting the use of waste heat, it would actually kill off the prospect of people investing in new nuclear plants. As I say, I have discussed this with my noble friend and he understands the problem.
While I am on my feet, in order not to have a separate debate on whether Clause 14 shall stand part of the Bill, I raise the question of nuclear waste. I discussed this briefly with the Minister the other day and she kindly arranged for me to have an excellent note on it. I was told that the phrase hazardous waste at the bottom of the list does not include nuclear waste. I accept that. However, the note says:
Whilst not having yet taken a final decision, Government is currently inclined to look towards applying the new system in the Planning Bill, and believes that the new arrangement could assist in the delivery of agreements with local communities.
It goes on to outline the consequences of that. When the Minister replies, it would be helpful if she could give a slightly fuller explanation of the factors leading Ministers to consider the possibility of using the Bill to deal with a huge project: the underground repository for hazardous nuclear waste. After all, there is a whole process going forward under the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely programme for developing a volunteering approach so that some local community could offer to host the waste.
Although I am extremely grateful for the note that I received from the noble Baronesss department, it seems to me at first sight that there is a considerable difference in the whole process and procedure that would be necessary for using what is envisaged in the existing radioactive waste policy and what would be involved if these matters had to come under the
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At first sight that could refer to a nuclear waste facility. Apparently it does not, but there is a possibility that it might do. I should like that to be explained in correspondence if it cannot be done tonight.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Having listened to many hours of debate it is a great pleasure to discuss a very important part of the Bill, which sets the thresholds for the new national arrangements. I shall speak to a number of the government amendments and then address the other amendments in the group.
The first set of government amendments relates to the introduction of a new category of project into the definition of nationally significant infrastructure project; specifically, major pipelines constructed by a licensed gas transporter. My noble friend Lord Berkeley rightly asked me to define what that means. My understanding is that a gas transporter is a holder of a gas transporter licence issued under the Gas Act 1986, as amended. The Gas Act requires any person who conveys gas to certainin practice, nearly allpremises in Great Britain, or into a pipeline of another gas transporter, either to hold a gas transporter licence or to be covered by an exemption from the requirement to hold a gas transporter licence. I should make it clear to my noble friend that the main gas transporter is National Grid Gas, which owns and operates the national transportation system for gas in Great Britain. The owners and operators of the gas distribution networks in Great Britain also hold gas transporter licences. The three independent distribution networks in addition to National Grid Gas are Scotia Gas Networks, Wales & West Utilities and Northern Gas Networks. I hope that helps my noble friend.
Government Amendment No. 131 inserts a new clause that sets out the conditions for when such a pipeline project will be considered a nationally significant infrastructure project, and so be determined by the IPC. The pipeline must be wholly or partly in England, must be more than 800mm in diameter and more than 40km in length; or the construction is likely to have a significant effect on the environment. The proposed pipeline will have a design operating pressure of more than 7 bar gauge and it must be expected to supply at least 50,000 customers.
Government Amendment No. 116 updates Clause 14 to reflect the new category of project. Government Amendments Nos. 117, 132, 134, 169, 289, 336, 402, 403 and 459 are consequential amendments to ensure that the existing pipeline provisions do not unintentionally apply to the new clause. This is important as these provisions extend to Wales and, for cross-border oil and gas pipelines, Scotland.
Amendments Nos. 130, 394, 404 and 455 are further changes to tidy up the Bills drafting, as we would otherwise need to define gas transporter in a large number of clauses throughout the Bill. Instead the term is now defined in Clause 220.
The Government consider gas importation, storage and transmission to be key components of this countrys infrastructure. This is already reflected in the range of projects set out in Clause 14. Pipelines constructed by a gas transporter, while mentioned in the planning White Paper were, however, omitted. This was because this type of project currently benefits from permitted development rights and we did not feel it necessary to include them in the new regime. However, in the other place it was suggested that gas transporter pipelines ought to be included in the new regime as they are critical to the transport of national gas supplies and many of the larger pipelines still need consent from the Secretary of State for other matters such as environmental impact assessment and other ancillary works along the pipeline.
Including those projects in the new regime would eliminate the need for multiple consents across different decision-makers, which is consistent with the whole intent of the Bill. My colleague Ministers examined this matter over the summer, including in discussions with industry, and we now bring to the Committee the proposal that large gas transporter pipelines should be included in the new regime. The threshold established through Amendment No. 131 will ensure that only the most significant projects are captured. In the light of the decline of North Sea gas production and the increasing dependence on imports, I hope that noble Lords will agree that those projects are of national significance and should be included in the new regime.
I understand that in previous debates in your Lordships House and in the other place on the Bill, there have been concerns over what has been described as the mission creep of the IPC. I hope therefore that noble Lords and Members of the other place will be reassured by the Governments other amendments in Committee, which aim to reduce the IPCs caseload. In particular, we are removing the less complex electricity line cases via Amendment No. 129, which I will come to now.
Clause 16 sets out when the installation of an electric line above ground will be a nationally significant infrastructure project; that is, projects with a nominal voltage exceeding 20 kilovolts. That was set to be consistent with the Electricity Act 1989. During consultation on the planning White Paper, the Government invited views on whether a line could be drawn between national and local electricity line projects. As responses to this question did not suggest any specific alternatives, the Government proposed at the introduction of the Planning Bill that all current electricity line cases be transferred to the IPC.
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