On 20 July 2022 the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy granted a development consent order for a new nuclear power station in Suffolk, Sizewell C.
Stephen Tromans Q.C. and Victoria Hutton appeared as part of the counsel team representing the applicant (NNB Ltd).
The Secretary of State’s Decision Letter runs to 193 pages. The Report of the Examining Authority (‘ExA’) runs across four Volumes with five Appendices. It is impossible to summarise shortly.
The examination ran between 14 April 2021 and 14 October 2021. The Examining Authority summarised their recommendation as follows:
‘The Examining Authority recommends that unless the outstanding water supply strategy can be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the Secretary of State to carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, the case for an Order granting development consent for the application is not made out. If, however, the Secretary of State decides to grant development consent then the Examining Authority recommends that the Order should be in the form set out at Appendix D to this Report.’
Following receipt of the recommendation, the Secretary of State requested further information from the applicant and statutory consultees on a number of topics including water supply and matters relating to the Habitats Regulations. The Secretary of State invited Interested Parties to comment on the responses of the applicant and statutory consultees.
The Secretary of State summarised his decision at part 3 of his Decision Letter. This states:
‘3.2 The Secretary of State has considered the overall planning balance and, for the reasons set out in this decision letter, has concluded that the very substantial and urgent need for the proposal outweighs the harms, and that development consent should therefore be granted for the Proposed Development.’
Following considerable reasoning over a number of paragraphs, the Secretary of State’s Decision Letter sets out his ‘overall conclusion on water supply’ (which is of particular interest given the ExA’s recommendation) as follows:
‘4.67 The Secretary of State is satisfied that the Applicant has established an acceptable water supply strategy for the construction period. The Secretary of State is also satisfied that a long-term water supply is viable and that any proposed water supply solution to be supplied by NWL will be properly assessed under the WRMP24 process and/or other relevant regulatory regimes and considers that no further information is required regarding the proposed water supply solution for a decision to be taken on the Application.
4.68 The Secretary of State therefore disagrees with the ExA’s conclusions on this matter and considers that the uncertainty over the permanent water supply strategy is not a barrier to granting consent to the Proposed Development.
4.69 The Secretary of State considers that the matter of the water supply does not weigh for or against the Order being made, and attributes this matter neutral weight in the overall planning balance.’
The documents relating to the development consent can be seen here.