We were pleased to be able to contribute to CPRE’s detailed response to the government consultation on the review of the Energy National Planning Statements. SPS responded to CPRE’s call for evidence, commenting specifically on matters relating to the heritage and landscape. This was an opportunity to provide our view on the experience in Suffolk of hosting major energy infrastructure and how national planning policy can improve this for local stakeholders.
The energy National Policy Statements (NPS) were first ‘designated’ in 2011 and there had been a number of calls for the NPS to be reviewed in light of changed government policy, not the least the net zero commitment.
With the publication of the Energy White Paper in December 2020, the Government announced a review of the energy NPS to ensure that they reflect the policies set out in the Energy White Paper and to ensure a planning policy framework fit to support the infrastructure required for the transition to net zero.
What are the NPS?
The energy NPSs set out the framework for decision-making on applications for development consent under the Planning Act 2008 for energy Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). EN-1 sets out the need case for certain energy infrastructure and general assessment principles, whilst the other five NPSs set out technology specific assessment principles.
EN-1, combined with any technology specific energy NPS where relevant, provides the primary policy for decisions and the legal, policy and technical information which applicants for development consent under the Planning Act 2008 need to consider.
The consultation document confirms that the Government review determined that the existing EN-1 to EN-5 documents should be amended.
There are five key changes contained in the draft NPSs:
1. There is no place for coal and large-scale oil energy-generation infrastructure
2. Large-scale solar panel generation is specifically listed in the scope of the renewable energy NPS for the first time
3. Small “modular” nuclear reactors are supported by the NPS, though no specific policies are included
4. The NPSs provide support for unnamed future “novel” technologies
5. Support for energy from waste projects is caveated with over-capacity warning
The revised overarching policy statement, EN-1 notes that the need for onshore reinforcement works will be substantial, referring to forecasts which highlight that the transmission network will require substantial reinforcement in East Anglia to handle increased power flows from offshore wind generation.