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The potential is for three nuclear build sites-only one closely related to Sellafield-with all the associated infrastructure, such as roads, a major upgraded National Grid transmission system, with conspicuous overhead lines all over the place, tidal energy bridges across Morecambe Bay and the Solway Firth, together with a plethora of existing and proposed off and onshore major and large-scale wind farms. That is not to mention nuclear waste being stored above ground for 160 years, with all its attendant management problems of safety and security, to which the right reverend Prelate referred rather tellingly. For a start, I should put on the record my view that overhead lines in national parks and areas of outstanding beauty should be a no-go issue.
Cumbria, indeed, can meet its own domestic needs for 500,000 households and contribute toward meeting regional planning targets, but just how much energy does it have to provide for the nation in the context of protecting those exceptional landscapes, including the Lake District jewel and its generally high environmental quality? The overarching NPS, and accompanying technology-specific NPSs, cannot reflect the totality of the cumulative impact from that potential development. This must be done in the local context but, as set out in the draft statement, that local impact appears to be almost automatically out-trumped by the national energy need. In weighing need and impact, the decision-making of the IPC, and of local authorities through their local impact reports, must be able to assess the principle of major individual projects that affect national parks, together with the deployment of alternative options or sites in the context of other potential proposals.
The draft NPS is based on the premise that there is a considerable need for new investment over the coming years and that any new provision is therefore needed. As part of this approach, the market is left to decide where proposals for new electricity generating infrastructure will come forward. For example, the proposed list of sites for nuclear power stations in EN-6 has been identified by promoters on the basis of market considerations, rather than through a rigorous site selection process based on sustainability criteria. I hope that the Government will consider very carefully representations by CPRE, CNP and other agencies that play such a vital part as guardians of the quality of British life, and which I find compelling. Those agencies are surely right to argue that the Government should not prescribe what development will be provided when the absence of any priorities or steer for where infrastructure might be most desirable, acceptable and necessary is unhelpful.
This is unlikely to result in the more strategic approach to which the Government aspire. Instead, objectors will continue to resist developments on a case-by-case basis. The need case will not be accepted by the public. Draft EN-1 appears to say that whatever promoters say is necessary is necessary, regardless of the impacts that that might generate. The NPSs effectively promote
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In paragraph 4.1.2 and elsewhere, weight is attached to development plans and regional guidance. The draft NPSs do not individually or collectively give sufficient weight to the relevance of the development plan, the regional spatial strategy and the local development framework to the IPC. This is particularly important for Wales and specific guidance on energy, including TAN8, and the renewable energy route map, as well as the Wales spatial plan and Planning Policy Wales. Much more clarity is required on whether the national policy statements relate solely to nationally significant proposals and to what extent they are a material planning consideration for proposals under that threshold.
In paragraphs 4.24.6 and 4.24.8, reference is made to assessing nationally significant infrastructure projects in national parks, the broads and AONBs. The guidance in the draft NPS for assessing projects in these unique places really needs to be redrafted, so that it properly reflects the rigorous examination required for such projects and the tests that must be satisfied before such projects can be considered acceptable. Exceptional circumstances and public interest must both be demonstrated.
The guidance in paragraph 4.24.7 appears to be completely at odds with current government policy for assessing major development proposals within national parks, as set out in paragraph 22 of planning policy statement 7. The draft NPS attempts to define exceptional circumstances as those where development can be demonstrated to be in the public interests. This is in contrast to existing government policy, which is that both exceptional circumstances and public interest must be demonstrated-the two are, after all, not always necessarily equivalent-for a major development proposal to be considered acceptable. Footnote 68 also changes existing government policy, as it attempts to redefine national considerations as including the contribution of the infrastructure to the regional economy. Nor is there any reference to the requirement for such proposals to be subject to the most rigorous examination. When taken together, the changes constitute a significant onslaught on a key
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The reference to the regional economy in footnote 68 could be deleted. National parks are designated for the nation's benefit and because of their national significance. The suggestion that a contribution to a regional economy is necessarily a national consideration is highly questionable. I urge my noble friend to ensure that this is given careful thought. By contrast, the NPS contains a welcome recognition that for developments outside nationally designated landscapes, the potential impact on the landscape should be taken into account by the IPC and the aim should be to avoid compromising the objectives of designation.
Paragraph 4.4 refers to alternatives. The principle in effect that alternatives to proposals should in some circumstances not be considered smacks to me of the characteristics of a control economy, with all its pitfalls and dangers. The need to make a rigorous assessment of alternatives seems to me to be a fundamental principle that underpins the promotion of sustainable development and the strategic environmental assessment process. Given that it is the role of the applicant to undertake a thorough assessment of all alternatives, it is difficult to accept the proposition in the final bullet of paragraph 4.4.3 that third parties should be responsible for assessing any alternatives that they put forward. This is, frankly, likely to be unrealistic for members of the public or smaller voluntary groups.
I conclude with a reference to paragraph 4.9 and the grid connections. I see that the paragraph requires any application to the IPC to include information on how the generating station is to be connected to the grid and whether any particular environmental issues are likely to arise from that connection. This is good. However, does my noble friend not agree that it is essential that proposals for generating stations and associated proposals for grid connection should be submitted to the IPC as a single application? If that is not possible, surely separate applications must be submitted in tandem to the IPC so that their environmental impacts can be considered at the same time, and any combination of effects assessed.
This is not the first occasion on which I have drawn the attention of the House to what happened in the 19th century industrial revolution. At the Proms and elsewhere, we sing with passion of the "dark satanic mills" but with hindsight it need not have happened; it could have been done in a much more civilised way. Have we learnt or, through high technology and all its paraphernalia and infrastructure, are we about to make the same mistake again? Pray God not. To ensure that the priority of meeting energy needs is not allowed, in any way, to impair or rape our rich, rural country inheritance, I cannot think of a better champion than my noble friend. I urge him to accept the challenge.
Lord Reay: My Lords, at the outset I ask for guidance from the Minister on a matter of procedure. The Secretary of State has provided for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPSs to last until 6 May. But what
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As we have heard, the Leader of the House has given an assurance that time would be allowed in this House to debate any resolutions that might be tabled after our debates have been completed. Plainly, there must be time for all that to occur. I should be grateful if the Minister would confirm that the Government intend that the provisions in the Act relating to parliamentary scrutiny will be fully observed and that, if that does not happen before the end of the Parliament, the Secretary of State will set a revised date, later than 6 May, for designating the NPSs.
I would like to raise another point relating to procedure. Anxiety was caused in some circles by a letter sent out from the DCLG to chief planning officers, dated 9 November 2009, which called on LPAs and other decision-makers to take account of policies set out in NPSs when determining applications that fell below the thresholds set out in the Act. That letter went on to say that the policies in a draft NPS may also be relevant to planning applications for below-threshold infrastructure or any appeals made under the Town and Country Planning Act. Such an instruction was surely improper in view of the fact that NPSs in draft form, such as they still are, are merely proposals before Parliament and are without legal force.
Several Members of Parliament and others took up these matters with the Minister at the time. I have seen copies of some of the letters written by the Minister in reply. His letters were reasonably reassuring regarding the Government's intent. The Minister stated that it was not intended that NPSs should be treated any differently by local planning authorities, or by inspectors deciding appeals, from any other statement of government policy, nor was it intended to instruct local planning authorities or inspectors deciding appeals to take decisions in any different way from that in which they have been doing. I should be grateful if the Minister could reassure us that the Government stand by those words, because the letter to the chief planning officers may, so far, have had a wider circulation than the Minister's clarification. This is a matter of some importance, because we have begun to see the NPSs being prayed in aid when planning applications or planning appeals are heard.
My chief concern about the content of EN-1 is that not enough emphasis is given to the obligation on the IPC to consider local objections. There is very scant reference indeed to any of the obligations to consult that are imposed on the applicant for development permission and on the IPC by the 2008 Act. There is no reference at all to the pre-application consultation procedure which the applicant must undertake and
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There is no reference in EN-1 to the three forms of hearing, which the Act deals with at length, or to written representations, which take up virtually all of Part 4 of the Act. There are two references to representations from or consultations with the local community: one is to the IPC's decision-making with regard to the impact on existing land use; the other is to consideration of the impact on heritage assets. There is no such mention of consultation in all the other incidences that are cited. There is no mention, for example, of the IPC consulting local interests in the sections on noise and on the landscape and visual impacts-a point which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, made. What are we to make of that? Is mention of the need for consultation or not purely arbitrary under each impact heading, or is there a process of deliberate prioritising at work, suggesting that in some areas it is more important to consult than in others? Whether or not that is the intention, it could be the message that was received. In any event, the need for the IPC to consult third parties is played down in the NPSs, which is unsatisfactory.
"The guidance in the draft NPSs on how the IPC should consider local impacts is totally insufficient. Getting the right balance between national need and local adverse impacts will be one of the IPC's biggest challenges. At present, it is difficult to imagine how negative local impacts could ever outweigh national".
Having said all that, however, I must acknowledge that the guidance notes that were issued earlier this month for the benefit of the IPC to assist it in its examination of development consents give another impression. They certainly do not indicate any wish to stifle local opinion. They spell out in meticulous, even exhaustive, detail the ways in which the Planning Act requires the IPC to conduct hearings and to give additional advice, even instructions, within the spirit of the legislation, on how the IPC should carry out these duties. I welcome them warmly.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, however, I am also concerned that the NPS may weaken the protection for nationally designated landscapes such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. This was also a matter of concern for the CPRE. Paragraph 4.24.7 in EN-1 states that the IPC may exceptionally grant consent to development in these areas if the development is demonstrated to be in the public interest. It goes on to say that consideration of such applications should include an assessment of, first:
This seems to push forward "need"-most likely, the Government's renewable energy targets-as a consideration, and was certainly not something mentioned
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I also agree with those who have criticised the NPS for not giving the IPC a role in assessing how individual developments contribute towards carbon emission targets. Here, I think that I may find myself agreeing with the right reverend Prelate. Since the pursuit of wind power, not to mention nuclear power, is all being done in aid of a purported saving of carbon emissions, why should the IPC not be able to assess the advantages of schemes proposed in terms of their carbon emission savings and use that as a criterion for granting or refusing development permission?
Whether one supports the concept of the IPC, and of the NPSs to give them guidance, must in part depend on what one thinks about government energy policy. For myself, I support the long-overdue need for nuclear power as well as for more gas storage, because these will both contribute to energy security. Yet wind power has an effect in the other direction, because it threatens the destabilisation of the grid as well as misdirecting capital expenditures on a vast scale. It almost certainly does not achieve any worthwhile savings in carbon emissions. Yet the Government's determination to try and suppress local opposition to unpopular wind farm applications is, I suspect, at least as much an explanation of why we have been saddled with the IPC as is the need for more nuclear power stations.
In this context, I draw your Lordships' attention to what I see as an anomaly in the Government's presentation regarding our future overall electricity generation requirements. On page 9 of EN-6, the nuclear NPS, the figure of 100 gigawatts is given as our possible requirement for generation capacity by 2020. That is despite it being the Government's belief-as we heard again this afternoon from the Minister-that our electricity usage will not rise above today's level of 60 gigawatts which, as the Minister explained, is in itself supplied by a capacity of about 80 gigawatts. Incidentally, that figure of 100 gigawatts is mentioned in neither the overarching NPS nor, as I can find it, in EN-3. Why is such a great increase over today's installed capacity required, when consumption is not expected to increase?
The answer must surely be that these are the back-up power stations required for wind farms. Yet the only reference I can find to the need for back-up is a passing allusion on page 17 of EN-1, which is highly obfuscatory; there is no mention of figures, nor of what types of power stations will be suitable for the purpose. This evasion is doubtless explained by the Government's wish that we should not be forced to confront the extraordinary waste and inefficiency of wind power that results in all that vast investment being entirely surplus to requirements-an optional extra which, if we are lucky, may one day supply us with a miserly percentage of our annual electricity requirement. I believe that no other country-not
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Moreover, I believe that the NPS seriously misleads the IPC in its repeated insistence that climate change is taking place and in what it states are the likely consequences: droughts, floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, storms, et cetera. I submit that the Government have no business using their authority to announce the future of the climate in such unequivocal and certain terms. Goodness knows what additional unnecessary expenditure a cautious IPC will, as a result, go and impose on developers. All this is at a time when the wheels give every sign of coming off the global warming bandwagon. Not only has each one of the extreme eye-catching predictions, from the plight of polar bears to the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers and the reduction in African crop yields, been exposed one by one as being based on insufficient or non-existent evidence, but the entire process on which the demonstration was based that we are in a warming period of any unusual significance, let alone one that has been caused by human activity, has now been revealed to be founded on dubious and probably manipulated measurements. In this respect, I refer those who are interested to the work of two American writers, Joseph d'Aleo and Anthony Watts, and the paper which they produced in January, entitled Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?.
Lord Teverson: Does the noble Lord value the opinion of the other several thousand scientists on climate change? He is making broad statements about a science that is admittedly difficult and an area in which some scientists say some things, but surely that does not give weight to his argument.
Lord Reay: An increasing number of scientists share the views that I am now putting forward. If the noble Lord consults what is available on various websites-I can give him a few-he may be able to broaden his mind.
The collapse in credibility of the whole IPCC edifice is sensed by the public, whose appetite for the huge cost of the commitments to which all parties still gaily subscribe was never very great and is now disappearing fast-witness the latest opinion poll published earlier this month by the Times. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, who was here earlier, published his book Out of the Energy Labyrinth three years ago. In it is a much quoted sentence that has given heart to many people such as me:
As we live in a democracy, I live in hope that eventually the voice of the public will be listened to or that some outside agency-some deus ex machina-may force us to cast off these crippling burdens. The sooner the better; some day, someone will have to save us from our own follies.
Lord Broers: My Lords, I intend, after some preamble, simply to ask the Minister two questions. I apologise that their subjects lie somewhat outside the bounds of
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My first question relates to the process that has been gone through to choose the mix of energy technologies to be implemented between now and 2050-a mix that was chosen to meet our carbon targets and our need for security and to ensure the elimination of fuel poverty. My second question addresses our research into and development of renewable sources. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, may not approve of the tone of what I am going to say. I should tell him that I share his concern about and love of our national parks, although they are not the subject of my speech today.
I spent more than half my professional life in industry working in research, development and planning, struggling to make decisions in what has been referred to as an ill-structured environment because in most cases many of the facts about cost and technical performance are unknown. To succeed as industrial engineers, we have to do as well as we can on limited information, but this does not prevent us doing all that we can to bring rigour to our deliberations. A range of possible outcomes is generally assessed, and a thorough analysis of costs completed as the data available allow. On the basis of this, we draw up comparisons and come to decisions about which alternatives to pursue and on what schedule. This is a highly complex process, often involving several alternatives, that will be pursued on the basis that predetermined milestones are met. The most skilled at this task in general are the most successful. Those that do not carry out such an analysis-in other words, who avoid the necessity to face reality and the market-are usually companies that think they are too small to do so, and they generally fail.
After spending so much time on planning and assessing complex engineering tasks, I was looking forward to using my experience to evaluate our energy plans. In the UK low-carbon transition plan, I was able to find estimates of the carbon savings from the various initiatives and a breakdown of what was going to be accomplished in the various sectors: homes and communities, transport, waste, power, heavy industry and so on. But I have been unable to find the complex cost and performance estimates of the various combinations of energy sources, which I imagine must have been made to guide and inform those who have set the national energy strategy. After all, most of the renewable sources are known to be more expensive than fossil fuel sources, and it is important in these strained financial times that the overall cost of our plans is known and minimised within the constraints of our targets and that the potential damage to our performance of higher energy costs is assessed. It would clearly be very dangerous, analogous to the companies that do not make thorough estimates of the cost and performance of their new technologies,
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