Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I have one further general observation. In his opening remarks, I think the Minister referred once again to the fact that the new process is a single-consent system. One of the values of this overarching report is that it has made it clear, at least to me, that that is quite untrue. There is not a single-consent system. If you study part 4 of the overarching statement you will find that there are at least 12 issues to which applicants must find consents; it is not just the IPC that has to be taken into account but consents must be obtained from a range of other bodies. That all has to be done before or during the IPC's consideration of the applications. Pollution control is included and paragraph 4.10.2 of the paper says:

"The planning and pollution control systems are separate but complementary. The planning system controls the development and use of land ... Pollution control is concerned with preventing pollution".

It is made very clear that the applicant has to get permission from another body to satisfy the pollution control system. That includes land drainage, water obstruction, biodiversity and water discharges. Again, on the marine side, you will see that there is the Marine Management Organisation, which has to give its consent if it is involved. There are also environment permits, under the Environment Agency or the local authority. Again, it is worth looking to see what is said about them:

"Wherever possible, applicants are encouraged to submit applications for Environmental Permits and other necessary consents at the same time as applying to the IPC for development consent".

It is quite clear, therefore, that it is an entirely separate consent procedure. If you turn to safety, the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and what is called COMAH-the control of major accident hazards-all have to be dealt with separately and do not come within the remit of the IPC. For any development which will interfere with aviation you have the system of OLS-obstacle limitation services-and for that you have to go to the Civil Aviation Authority. There are the TTAs-the tactical training areas-and for that the applicant has to go to the Ministry of Defence. And there is what is called CNS-communications, navigation and surveillance. This all comes as a separate exercise. Paragraph 4.19.11 says:

"The applicant should consult the MoD, CAA, NATS and any aerodrome-licensed or otherwise-likely to be affected by the proposed development in preparing an assessment of the proposal on aviation or other defence interests".



23 Feb 2010 : Column GC255

I shall go on, because that is not all. We have the whole question of coastal change, which has to be applied for to the Marine Management Organisation. There is the whole question of flood risk. That is a very interesting one, because it comes under the Environment Agency. It is clear that we have here a very interesting example of interdepartmental stress between that agency and, perhaps, DECC. Paragraph 4.22.15 says:

"If the Environment Agency objects to an application on flood risk grounds, all parties (the IPC, the Environment Agency and the applicant), should discuss and agree the course of action which would need to be taken to enable the Environment Agency to withdraw its objection".

That may be the way ahead, but it is not a single- consent procedure by any stretch of the imagination.

Finally, to top it off, if an application involves interfering with a wreck, separate consent is required from the department for culture and the rest of it.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The noble Lord is making an extremely interesting speech and I look forward to responding to him. On the points that I made at the beginning of the debate, when I referred to planning reforms and the consent regime, I was talking about a single consent in relation to planning. There is no suggestion that the IPC should take over the role of the other regulatory bodies, such as the Environment Agency or the Health and Safety Executive. Certainly, one is right to expect the IPC to want to take a collaborative approach towards those agencies, but I am not aware of any suggestion that the IPC should be seen to take over that role.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: The Minister is no doubt absolutely right, but one would have to search very hard in the speeches made by Ministers and others about this matter to recognise that. When the Minister referred to a single system of consent, one was somehow led to believe that all these other things would somehow be swept up in it. It is all very frankly set out in EN-1, and that is manifestly not the case. Therefore, there are still many consent requirements for applicants to cope with. I do not want to dwell on the point, except to say that a little more candour in presenting this to Parliament and the public would not have gone amiss. There is a long list of consents, which I have indicated. I think that Ministers should stop claiming too much for their new system.

There are three matters of substance to which I must refer. The first concerns the concept of need for new investment, which underlies much of what is stated on the NPSs and stated in a number of different ways. On page 14 of EN-1, the words "significant need" are used. With electricity capacity, there is also a need that "at all times" there should be sufficient capacity to supply electricity to the country. One of the advantages of the consultation paper is the marvellous glossary at the back, which is where one comes across the nationally significant infrastructure projects.

Another concept is introduced from the European directive: IROPI-imperative reasons of overriding public interest. That is relevant primarily to environmental matters such as the habitats directive, but it is yet another test. Given this confusion of language, the question of need is not sufficiently clearly set out in

23 Feb 2010 : Column GC256

the national policy statements. In view of the overriding national need for new infrastructure investment, there should be a prescription in favour of new investment unless that is manifestly outweighed by adverse impacts that cannot be mitigated. I am still considering how that could best be drafted in an amendment, but I give notice that, subject to anything the Minister may say when he replies, I will table an amendment to EN-1 at a later stage in this process.

Secondly, there has been much pressure on the Government to reverse the statement in paragraph 2.1.5 of EN-1, and a lot of discussion in the committee at the other end. Paragraph 2.1.5 says:

"Given that the Government policies that underlie NPSs have been set in accordance with the Transition Plan and carbon budgets, the IPC does not need to assess individual applications in terms of carbon emissions against the budgets".

Indeed, I sat behind the Minister when he defended that position very robustly before the committee at the other end.

Having heard the Minister's arguments, I am not persuaded that the critics are right. He put up a strong argument, and I well understand his case that to make the IPC responsible for assessing that sort of thing would give it a wholly impossible task. It already has a formidable task, and this would add further complexity and uncertainty. However, there is a case for strengthening the impact of EN-1 by recognising more explicitly the UK's climate commitments and the need for low-carbon generation. That is not quite the same thing; it does not refer to individual targets or anything of that sort.

The Government's analysis demonstrates the need for new low-carbon generation by 2025, a significant proportion of which is expected to be filled by nuclear power. This is consistent with the Government's legally binding target to deliver an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, and with the need for the substantial decarbonisation of electricity by the 2030s and almost complete decarbonisation by 2050. Moreover, it must be recognised that the generation-capacity requirement that was quoted in the NPS for 2025 is not a goal in itself; it is a milestone on the way. I reinforce what I said earlier: that I am very glad that the milestone paper will go up to 2050.

Of course this will all require continued investment in low-carbon technologies, of which nuclear power is certainly one, and the challenge of meeting the Government's target robustly establishes,

That, too, could well be incorporated into the NPS. Indeed, it needs to be stated in the NPS. Again, I give notice that I will table an amendment at a later stage. We will come to a lot of this when we deal with the nuclear statement, EN-6, in a fortnight. The Minister's predecessor, Malcolm Wicks, produced an excellent report for the Prime Minister on energy security, and made the very valuable suggestion that the nuclear build should go a lot further than is currently envisaged in EN-6.

Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that my third point will be much shorter. It is that I believe that the Government are wrong to have rejected Dungeness for their list of approved sites. I hope to develop that case when we debate EN-6, and give notice that at the

23 Feb 2010 : Column GC257

appropriate point in the process I will table an amendment to include Dungeness in the list. We may not have to vote. I listened to the noble Lord answering that point in the Select Committee at the other end. He recognised that it was controversial, and went on to tell the committee that his mind was not closed. That has caused a good deal of optimism in the minds of those pressing the case for Dungeness.

When we come to the later reports I shall seek to raise other matters, particularly about the lack of incentives to raise the hundreds of billions of pounds of investment required to meet the Government's objectives. However, that must be for another day.

I have raised a number of issues arising from EN-1 and very much look forward to the Minister's response.

4.15 pm

Lord Chorley: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, is a difficult act to follow. When the then Planning Bill went through the House, I was an enthusiast for it; it seemed an eminently sensible way to tackle big national planning issues. I was even more of a supporter of the amendments in the other place regarding the scrutiny process of an NPS before approval by Parliament. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, referred to his own efforts, which I also supported, as I did his important remarks and thoughts this afternoon, which we all ought to bear in mind.

However, I was somewhat dismayed by what has now emerged-not by the first NPS itself to emerge from Whitehall, but rather by the way in which we are expected to deal with it. On the one hand, in the Commons a committee is or has just completed examining the first group of NPSs in detail and has taken extensive oral evidence from interested parties. On the other hand, as I understand it from the interchange on 15 December, we have only this debate here in the Moses Room, with all the procedural consequences-although we now learn that we are to be allowed two more sittings, which certainly helps. Be that as it may, were it not for the availability of evidence submitted by interested parties to the Commons committee, I for one would have been hard pushed. My remarks today stem from-are almost entirely dependent on-that evidence and consequential conversations I have had with some of its witnesses.

This is surely not a satisfactory way of proceeding. Indeed, if the Commons had not introduced that committee process by taking evidence from interested parties, the whole NPS idea would have been, in terms of Parliament, hardly satisfactory-some would say little better than a farce, although I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is almost a one-man Select Committee. Surely the sensible way forward would have been a Joint Committee of both Houses. This is the first NPS to be published, and I suspect it is likely to be the biggest, weighing in at nearly 5 pounds and in six volumes. It is a pity that the Government could not have had more of a run-in on something easier. However, I welcome the detailed and measured way in which the Minister introduced the report this afternoon.



23 Feb 2010 : Column GC258

My interests are largely in landscape-related issues. I was pleased to see that both Natural England-of course a government quango, albeit much respected-and the CPRE, which is a distinguished countryside campaigning organisation, both submitted evidence. Both organisations made similar points. I will summarise the key points under five heads: first, the Government's low-carbon policy; secondly, spatial planning issues; thirdly, sustainable development; fourthly, assessing the impacts of projects; and fifthly, nuclear.

As regards low carbon, the NPS needs to emphasise the Committee on Climate Change's statement that all new generation will need to be decarbonised by 2030. Consequently, fossil fuel generation without CCS needs to be phased out in the next decade. The Minister more or less confirmed that. It is an essential requirement. Energy planning should be an integral part of spatial planning. The NPS should not override planning policy statements and planning policy guidance. I suggest that this is a timely reminder. On sustainable development, the NPS does not clearly set out the Government's environmental objectives. Natural England stated that the natural environment is largely treated as a range of impacts to be assessed and overcome. It suggests that stronger guidance is needed. These are not my words; they are those of Natural England and are effectively endorsed by the CPRE independently in its evidence.

Assessing the impact of projects is not an easy area to summarise in a short speech. In the view of the CPRE, the implication is that spatial planning is seen largely as a barrier to development and that spatial policies should be disregarded where it is judged that they might restrict NSIPs. The CPRE fears that this could have hugely damaging consequences for some of our most valued landscapes, including national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The CPRE states that it is disturbed at the relative lack of attention given to local impacts in the draft NPSs. Natural England is clear that the NPS needs to be strengthened in this area and that greater emphasis should be given to steering major development away from designated areas.

Finally, I come to nuclear. I have no hang-ups with nuclear per se. Vis-à-vis low-carbon policy, we need a significant proportion of nuclear generation, provided it is reasonably economic. The French have shown the way. Again, the main need is to get on with it and build some power stations of any sort. I was intrigued that of the six volumes of the NPS, the volume on nuclear is by far the fattest. I am not sure what, if any, conclusion I draw from that, but we shall be devoting a further debate to nuclear, so I shall say no more on it today.

I fear I have struck a rather carping note in most of my remarks so, before I sit down, I shall say that, notwithstanding the way we in this Chamber have to deal with this new beast-the NPS-it and the Planning Act can be an important advance in how we deal with major national energy issues. There is clearly enormous work to be done, and I suggest we take seriously the detailed and thorough critique that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding.



23 Feb 2010 : Column GC259

4.23 pm

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for the opportunity to debate the energy national policy statements. These statements set out the Government's policy for energy and infrastructure planning in a low-carbon economy. Those words run like letters through a stick of rock throughout these policy statements, and rightly so. Last year, your Lordships' House took great interest in the Planning Bill and the interest in the debate today reflects that continued commitment.

Nuclear energy will be debated later on, but I shall not be able to be present, so I would like to take this opportunity briefly to remind the Minister of a question which I raised in June 2007. In the light of expected sea-level rises as a result of climate change, I expressed concern about the security of nuclear power stations on coastal sites. I notice in the NPS that a number of proposed plants are to be located on the coast. I wonder what assurance the Minister can give that those sites are indeed secure, given the projected sea-level rise of 1 or 2 metres during the life of the plant and during the lifetime of the nuclear waste to be stored on the same site for some hundreds of years. I expect this topic will be more fully debated when the nuclear NPS is debated in the House.

The policy statement that we debate today concentrates on fossil fuels and energy infrastructure. Over the next four decades, we need to develop a low-carbon energy supply as part of the transition to a low-carbon economy. I confess that as I went to the end of the energy NPSs, I was disappointed. The Minister will recall the amendments which I tabled, together with other noble Lords, seeking to ensure that the IPC and national policy statements had regard to the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. At the time, we were assured by the Government that those amendments were not necessary and that the new planning process for infrastructure adequately took account of climate change. Unfortunately, as I read the energy national policy statements, and in spite of good rhetoric on pages 7 and 44, I am far from reassured.

The NPSs make it clear that the Government are placing heavy reliance on the market, principally through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Unquestionably, the market has an important role to play; today we see businesses leading the way in innovation and development of technologies for a low-carbon economy. My concern is that the NPSs rely too heavily on the market at a time when we still need to change public attitudes and public behaviour. The Government recognise that they have an important role to play in setting direction, giving a lead and providing a route for transition, which is why they have drawn up the transition plan, but despite the Minister's assurance and what is written in paragraph 2.1.5, I do not see how the NPSs and the decisions by the IPC are bound into the Government's transition plan.

My greatest concern is that there is nothing within the planning process that requires applicants to count the carbon. A number of clauses require them to demonstrate how they will adapt to climate change but nothing requires them to assess their own carbon footprint and to demonstrate how they will contribute

23 Feb 2010 : Column GC260

to reducing our carbon output. As the IPC is not called on to count carbon, there appears to be no way to ensure that the total carbon emissions of approved new infrastructure contribute positively towards the UK emissions reductions target; indeed, quite the reverse. Notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, has just said, with known targets overtly stated within the NPSs, it seems, for example, that the IPC could end up approving sufficient coal-fired power stations to make it completely impossible for the UK ever to achieve the 2050 emissions targets.

The energy NPS asserts that the UK's requirement for electricity will increase as we move to a low-carbon economy, particularly as our transport in the future will be largely fuelled by electricity. The energy NPS places heavy reliance on imported gas for the generation of electricity. The UK is already one of the largest gas consumers in Europe, representing close to a fifth of the European Union total. The NPS rightly addresses concerns about energy security with regard to our increasing dependence on imported gas, but it is silent on concerns about emissions and the generation of electricity from gas. As stocks of natural gas diminish or are harder and more expensive to reach, it seems we will be required to utilise more liquid natural gas, which of course needs greater processing than natural gas in the generation of electricity. In other words, there are more emissions in the use of liquid gas to generate electricity. It seems possible within the framework of the energy NPS for the IPC to approve fossil fuel plants to generate electricity with no regard whatever for the impact on an increasing carbon output or a changing climate.

I understand that the climate change committee has not yet given evidence at the committee considering the NPSs. I hope very much that it plans to do so. Surely it brings an important perspective to this debate, one which we would be the poorer for not hearing.

In closing, I confess my disappointment that the assurances that we received from the Government during the Planning Bill debates are not fully reflected within the energy NPSs. It is difficult to see how the new energy infrastructure will contribute to the UK achieving its emissions reductions by 2050. I recognise that we are in new territory, as we work out what a low-carbon economy looks like and how we can generate sustainable, secure low-carbon energy. The Government's low-carbon transition plan sets out clearly the amount of energy to come from different sources. Can the Minister explain why the IPC is not required to approve planning of energy generation in line with these published proportions in the Government's own transition plan? I suggest that the energy NPS needs an overt requirement for the IPC to make decisions to deliver the transition plan energy proportions. This requirement would be an effective way in which to bind the energy NPSs into the Government's thinking and policy on climate change.

The Minister began this debate by asking whether the NPSs could provide a framework for energy policy. I humbly suggest that there is a flaw in the framework, in that the NPS fails to connect fully with the Government's own targets on carbon reduction and climate change. I hope that the Minister might be able to address that issue.



23 Feb 2010 : Column GC261

4.32 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, at the outset, I declare an interest on three grounds. First, I am vice-president of the Campaign for National Parks. Secondly, I am president of Friends of the Lake District, which represents CPRE in Cumbria. Thirdly, I am a resident of the national park in Cumbria. None of these are remunerated-not even with expenses-but all of them are very real commitments on my part.

I could not agree more with the Government on the urgency of low-carbon forms of energy and the benefit of having national planning strategies. I am very glad that in the document before us there are indeed references to national parks, the broads and areas of outstanding natural beauty. In other words, I support the Government's low-carbon transition plan. I am confident that my noble friend will agree that while, therefore, minimising carbon emissions is an essential priority, of equal priority is enhancing people's quality of life, protecting biodiversity and aqua-system resilience, landscape beauty, diversity and our sense of identity, and conserving our precious and declining natural resources.

My noble friend is a particularly civilised and sensitive man. I read with great joy his diary of a visit to Cumbria-probably in the House Magazine. My heart leapt with joy when he referred to how, as the train crossed the mountains of Cumbria, he was full of the glories and richness of life. I know that he feels these things as I do. I have put it to him in private conversation-I am sure that he will not mind my mentioning this-that he really has a huge challenge, which has two objectives. One is, of course, to make sure that the nation's energy needs are met, but the other is to leave an inheritance of which we can all be proud. He would never be happy if he went down in history as a man who met the energy needs but wrecked the environment; I am sure that he will not prove to be that.

The language of the document before us slightly concerns me. It seems to be a pretty good model of a values-free government publication. I do not think that I am being harsh, but its language is a sort of cold management-speak. Imagination and vision are not the hallmarks of this document. I therefore put it to my noble friend that while the energy priorities are beyond doubt, the other aspects to which I have been referring need to be more strongly worded. A tone needs to be set that these are not things which we shall have to accommodate, but to which we are deeply committed. I am also a little concerned lest the emphasis in this NPS on energy will work against the principle of increasing public engagement with and understanding of major decisions, and the enhancement of the whole nature of citizenship in a way that enables people to feel that they can play a meaningful and real part in developing the solutions we all need to find as a society.

Our nationally and internationally important landscapes are very special places for the nation and essential to the public interest. The new draft circular for the English national parks and the broads demonstrates well their holistic worth to society, be it for health, exercise or seeing the local demonstration of sustainable lifestyle choices. Yet the western fringes of the Lake

23 Feb 2010 : Column GC262

District National Park face potential destruction from a series of separate "nationally significant infrastructure facilities" that the NPS says can, in themselves, override the protection afforded to national parks in PPS7.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page