Today's entry reports on a decision to accept changes to the
Hinkley Point C application.
In contrast to the refusal to allow changes to Covanta
Energy's proposed Brig y Cwm energy from waste project
application last August, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has
allowed changes to be made to EDF's proposed Hinkley Point C
(HPC) nuclear power station application.
In a letter
issued last week, Andrew Phillipson, the chair of the now
five-person panel of what we must now call 'Examining
Inspectors', has allowed the application to continue with
changes sought at the preliminary meeting on 21 March and
elaborated upon on 30 March.
What are the changes, and why have they been allowed? The
changes are described in Table 3 in this document, starting on page 7. There are
six changes. The first is a new culvert to allow otters to cross
the Cannington Bypass at Mill Stream (all together now: awww!). The
other five changes are all to the designs of road accesses and
junctions (one fewer than originally expected). Although three of
these require changes to the flood risk assessment, they are all
stated not to affect the conclusions of the environmental impact
This is in contrast to the Brig y Cwm changes, which involved
additional engineering operations to raise ground levels, and had
beneficial impacts but also adversely affected landscape and
visual, and cultural heritage impacts. In that case the IPC decided
that the changes were substantial alterations to the application
and exceeded the threshold of what was allowable. Covanta decided
to continue with their original application for a while, and then
withdraw it shortly after they got consent for their other proposal
We therefore have a set of changes that is acceptable and one
that is not. The limit of acceptability is somewhere in between. It
may be telling that the Brig y Cwm changes involved 44 new or
amended documents, and the Hinkley Point C (HPC) changes only
involved nine. Having said that, it is probably not simply a
question of degree. Some changes may be substantial but be entirely
beneficial - should they be prohibited? I would hope not.
Also of significance is that EDF took the step of publicising
the changes to the application by publishing notices in the press and depositing
the changes in libraries. This was a factor in the decision to
accept the changes, presumably because it allowed the six-month
examination timetable to be stuck to. I think the promoters did so
off their own bat rather than being advised by the Planning
Inspectorate to do so. Other factors, as can be seen in this letter from
Andrew Phillipson, were that the application boundary remained the
same (so did Brig y Cwm's), and the additional documents were
all to be supplied within 9 days of the preliminary meeting (so
were Brig y Cwm's - 7 days later).
There was also a difference in approach by the panels examining
the two different applications. The Brig y Cwm panel invited
interested parties to comment on whether they thought the changes
were material. Funnily enough without reading them in detail I
suspect that all 83
representations received thought that they were indeed
material. The HPC panel on the other hand presumed that the changes
were not material unless it decided otherwise upon seeing the
additional information, and did not solicit comments on whether
they were material. Panels are of course entitled to take differing
approaches on such matters depending on the circumstances if they
So what can we conclude about when changes will be allowed and
when they won't? There are too few examples to say
definitively, but the following factors seem to help:
providing the changes promptly (Brig y Cwm tick, HPC
advertising them (Brig y Cwm cross, HPC tick);
there being no material additional adverse environmental
impacts, and demonstrating this (Brig y Cwm cross, HPC tick);
there being no increase in the site limits (i.e. no new
landowners affected) (Brig y Cwm tick, HPC tick).
Incidentally, it would help if the Planning Inspectorate website
displayed documents relating to a project chronologically. There
are now 199 non-application 'project documents' for HPC and
while they have been categorised by type, they are not in any
particular order and it is getting increasingly difficult to find
newly posted documents. Furthermore, consistency: the changes to
Brig y Cwm are filed under 'project documents', while the
changes to HPC are under 'application documents' and you
have to know to look for 'post submission changes' amongst
the 310 documents there.
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