Memorandum submitted by UKMPG (PB 24)
Submission of key points to the Planning Bill - Public Bill Committee prepared by the United Kingdom Major Ports Group ( UKMPG)
1. The UKMPG is the representative group for nine of the largest port and port terminal operators in the United Kingdom. The member ports handle around 70% of all cargoes that pass through the UK's ports. Seven members are in the private sector with the remaining two being "trust ports" operated in accordance with specific Acts of Parliament. Further details of the UKMPG members, and the recent planning inquiries for infrastructure improvements at the UK's ports in which they have been involved, is appended to this paper.
The Planning Bill
2. The UKMPG generally welcomes the Bill and the new arrangements for processing applications for major infrastructure projects. Modern and adequate infrastructure is vital to the UK's international competitiveness and long term economic prosperity. In the ports sector the recent delays and cost of securing consents for additional capacity are having a detrimental effect on container handling, in particular, with congestion now being experienced at peak times while final consents for new capacity are awaited prior to the projects being implemented. These delays in the main have been due to the long time taken for decisions to be reached after the close of Inquiries and/or the need to process consents for other developments on which the main development is dependent.
Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
3. Clause 20 of the Bill sets the criteria for determining whether the construction or extension of harbour facilities fall within the definition of nationally significant infrastructure projects. In the case of container and ro-ro facilities, if a major development is to be approximately equivalent to the capacity of one berth, we believe that the threshold should be reduced to 250,000TEU and 150,000 units for ro-ro. Further a facility to handle 5m tonnes of general cargo would be exceptional and therefore we would propose a threshold of 3 million tonnes.
4. It is not clear from the text of Clause 20 whether the threshold will apply to an extension to the port alone or the total handling capacity of the port if the extension is permitted. This can be contrasted with Clause 19(3) where it is very clear that the extension at an airport must lead to an increase in airport capacity of at least 10m if it is to be treated as a major project. We believe that the threshold for ports should relate to extensions rather than total handling capacity at existing ports and Clause 20 should be clear on this point
National Policy Statements
5. This is potentially a very important development. The quality of these statements, and the processes that lead to their formulation, will be critical to gaining public support for decisions that are made on the basis of the statements. In that respect it is important that Parliament is involved in their formulation through scrutiny by a Select Committee.
6. Ports are part of the logistics chain for the transport of goods and passengers and, therefore, developments at ports are dependent on good road and rail access. The Eddington Report recognised the importance of surface access links to "gateways" such as ports and airports. It is therefore important that the NPS for Highways, Railways and Rail Freight Interchanges, in particular, (and Government spending priorities to support them) take proper account of the NPS for Ports to ensure that goods can be transported efficiently to and from port developments. This is equally the case for the NPS on Pipe-lines which are used for the transport of product from terminals at ports.
7. It will also be important that the NPS's are integrated into Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks to ensure that regional and local authorities are required to provide for the potential developments in their plans. There does not appear to be any provision to this effect in the Bill as currently drafted and we would ask that this issue is considered further.
Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)
8. A major source of delay and uncertainty for recent major developments at ports has been the need to ensure that adequate road and rail infrastructure is provided to handle the increase in traffic that the development was designed to handle. These have included local road developments as well as trunk and special roads. The NPS's for Highways and Railways should help determine national and regional priorities for Highway and Railway developments but consideration should given to creating a power for the Secretary of State to direct the Highways Agency or the highway authority, in relation to roads, or Network Rail in relation to railways, to bring forward a scheme(s) for road and rail provision to minimise delays to the implementation of consent for a major port project where that project is in accordance with the relevant NPS.
9. Clause 29 and 30 of the Bill consolidates a number of permissions and consents into a development consent to be considered by the IPC. This is a positive step. For the ports sector we believe that the consolidated consents should include licences required in relation to the disposal of dredged material under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. Such licences are normally a requirement for any major port development and can be properly considered as part of the development consent.
10. Where an application for development consent for a major project is dependent on consents being obtained by other parties, for example, by the Highways Agency or Network Rail for road and rail developments, there may need to be provision for such applications to be consolidated with the main application. Currently, the Secretary of State's powers under Clause 30 do not appear to extend to directions on related applications made by the Highways Agency or Network Rail.
11. The procedures of the IPC, insofar as they are set out in the Bill, are radical but generally welcome. Essentially, the IPC needs to ensure that the consideration of applications for consent are run as a managed process where participants are required to meet deadlines with quality submissions and evidence. The process for managing litigation in the High Court is a model for the IPC where the Woolf reforms have made fundamental changes to improve the efficiency of the litigation process. It will be important that the IPC exercises its powers sensitively, particularly in relation to time limits, to ensure that public confidence is maintained in the consent process and the risk of legal challenge is minimised.
12. European legislation has a particular bearing on developments in ports and particularly the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. This is recognised in Clause 94(4) of the Bill but due consideration may need to be given to these provisions both in the formulation of the NPS and in the preparation of applications for development consent as well as their consideration.
Community Infrastructure Levy
13. Part 10 of the Bill is drafted in terms which permit regulations to be made to impose a levy. It is our understanding that the community levy would not apply to major projects. As most major port developments involve huge initial expenditure and considerable risk, with returns being earned in the latter years of the project, there are sound reasons not to include major schemes within the levy arrangements. In the normal course there are likely to be considerable community benefits from the investment in major port projects in terms of jobs, both direct and indirect, as well as other compensating local improvements associated with any such project. The Bill should contain provisions to clarify that the levy would not apply to port projects.
The UKMPG generally welcomes the proposed arrangements in the Planning Bill for the processing of nationally important infrastructure projects. In relation to port projects we believe that there is a good case for the thresholds for the new procedure to be reduced and a need to ensure that the national policy statements, and the priorities for Government expenditure, take full account of the need to secure good surface access links to port developments.
The Membership of the UK Major Ports Group
The Members of the UKMPG are;
Associated British Ports Plc - Operates 21 ports in the UK including Southampton and the Humber and South Wales ports.
Port of Belfast - operates the port in Belfast
Bristol Port - a private company that operates the port in Bristol
Dubai Ports World - DPW acquired P&O in 2006 and manages container terminals in Southampton and Tilbury in the UK and is also now the developer of the London Gateway Container Port. DPW is an international group operating container terminals across the world
Forth Ports Plc - operates ports on the Forth and Dundee in addition to Tilbury port in London
Hutchison Ports - Operate Felixstowe, Harwich International Port and Thamesport container terminal in the UK. Part of Hutchinson Whampoa which operates container terminals across the world.
Port of London Authority - Harbour authority for the Tidal Thames
Peel Ports - Operate Clydeport, Heysham, Liverpool, Manchester Ship Canal and Medway port. Now a joint venture between Peel Holdings, a private company, and Deutche Bank
Teesport - Operate the port of Tees and Hartlepool.
The most recent applications for significant port infrastructure with which the various members have been involved are:
Associated British Ports - Dibden Bay in Southampton (a four berth container port extension) Refused.
DPW - London Gateway Port (a seven berth new container terminal with associated business park)
Hutchison Ports - Felixstowe South (a four berth reconfiguration of an existing container terminal).
Approved February 1st 2006.
Hutchison Ports - Bathside Bay, Harwich (a four berth new container terminal)
Approved March 29th 2006.
Peel Ports - Liverpool (a two berth container terminal)
Approved March 2007.
Teesport - Teeside (a new two berth container port)
Construction has not commenced on any of these projects: in at least one case this is pending the formal making of an order under the Harbours Act and in other cases implementation is dependent on consents being granted for other projects on which the port project is dependent.