Clause 17 will amend the provisions in the Electricity Act 1989 relating to consents for generating stations and overhead lines. In particular, it will allow developers to apply for amendments to consents for electricity generating stations issued under the Electricity Act regime, which preceded the Planning Act 2008.
When a developer has a consent for a generating station under section 36 of the Electricity Act, it may be several years before it is in a position to commence development. Within that time, technologies may have advanced—for example, turbine efficiency may have improved—and, as a consequence, the developer may wish to make improvements to its project. However, the original consent may not allow such improvements, because it specifies that the development has to be carried out in a certain way. The Electricity Act does not provide for consents issued under section 36 to be varied. Therefore, developers in such a situation would have to make a completely new planning application to the Planning Inspectorate under the Planning Act 2008; build a sub-optimal development; or, in the worst case, simply abandon the development completely.
The Government do not believe that it is right that a developer should have to make a completely new application, covering every aspect of the project in detail, when only part of the project is to be changed. That is unnecessary red-tape. The potential delay and additional expense are in no one’s interest. We believe that the planning system should require a proportionate amount of information from developers in relation to their proposals, and the clause will allow developers to focus on the part of the consent that they want changed.
I assure the Committee that it is not our intention that such changes should simply be rubber-stamped. There will be a public consultation period, and the views of interested parties will still be considered as part of the assessment of the developers’ proposed change. The decision maker, who, depending on the situation, may be the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers or the Marine Management Organisation, will then reach a reasoned conclusion.
The clause will insert new section 36C into the Electricity Act 1989. The new section will set out the basic proposition that section 36 consents may in future be varied following an application from a developer and provide that the procedure for dealing with applications to vary section 36 consents may be set out in regulations.
The clause will also allow regulations to make provisions that applications to vary consents and any variation to a consent should be treated as though they were made when the original consent was made. That will enable regulations to tie in the variation of section 36 consents with the current provisions of secondary legislation made under the Planning Act, to clarify that the Planning Act is not required for the revised project. For the same reason, the clause will allow regulations for variations to consents for overhead lines to be treated as though they were made at the same time as the original consent.