It’s been a couple of years since National Highways originally attempted to submit the Lower Thames Crossing(LTC) Development Consent Order (DCO) application, so here’s a reminder of the LTC DCO process 2022.
What is a DCO?
DCO stands for Development Consent Order.
Unlike regular planning applications that are submitted to and considered by Local Authorities (councils), huge projects like the proposed LTC are considered NSIPs (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects), and have to go through the DCO process.
It is worth noting that National Highways cannot legally begin construction, unless they are granted a DCO.
You can find out more info and keep an eye as things progress on the PINS LTC page.
Please note there are 3 tabs near the top of the page ‘Overview‘, ‘S51 Advice‘, ‘Documents‘. There are already notes and documents relating to the LTC on each tab if you wish to take a look.
The DCO process
Please note timelines can be subject to change depending on what happens, this is just an approximate time line to try and help give everyone an idea of what to expect.
National Highways (NH) submitted their Development Consent Order (DCO) application for the proposed Lower Thames Crossing on Fri 23rd October 2020.
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) were due to announce their decision on Fri 20th Nov 2020, as to whether they would be accepting the application or not.
At the eleventh hour NH announced they had withdrawn their LTC DCO application. We later discovered that PINS were due to refuse the application due to a lack of adequate information, and the Adequacy of Consultations submitted by Local Authorities and TCAG.
NH said they would be working on the application and aimed to resubmit it early in the new year. NH’s Matt Palmer stated the aim was to submit within 90-120 days of the application being withdrawn, a self set target that they failed to meet.
There have been two subsequent LTC consultations, the Community Impacts Consultation in 2021, and the Local Refinements Consultation in 2022.
This means that there has now been around 2 years since the first attempt to submit the LTC DCO application.
More info on the first DCO attempt can be found here
National Highways announced that the LTC DCO application was resubmitted on Mon 31st October 2022.
The application should include all the supporting DCO documentation. Including all that info that we have been asking for for years and NH have refused to share, stating it will be available in the DCO.
PINS will now review the application to decide whether the documentation is adequate for the Examination. They will also consider Local Authority Adequacy of Consultation representations.
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) have advised that the LTC DCO documents have been published HERE
Whilst they are not accepting comments at this time, it does give us a chance to review the documents.
To be clear no decision has yet been made or announced regarding whether the application will be accepted for examination.
As soon as the application has been submitted, the host Local Authorities (councils impacted by the project) have 14 days to submit their ‘Adequacy of Consultation’ representations.
PINS then take 14 days to review the ‘Adequacy of Consultation’ representations, and decide whether they consider the consultation for the LTC has been adequate.
Whilst it is only the Local Authorities that PINS will officially invite to submit representation on the Adequacy of Consultation, it is possible to send representations to PINS ourselves, as TCAG and others did in 2020.
TCAG 2022 Inadequacies of LTC Consultation representationRead all the submitted Adequacy of Consultation representations
The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) announced on 28th Nov 2022 that the LTC DCO application has been accepted for examination.
It is important to note that this decision is purely about the application being accepted for Examination, and doesn't mean the DCO permission has been or will necessarily be granted.
The LTC DCO application documents are available online here.
If the DCO application is accepted, the supporting documentation will be released and PINS will invite people to register as Interested Parties.
Anyone who wishes to participate in the DCO process must register as an Interested Party via the PINS website at the appropriate time.
Once the registration period is open, PINS will be published a deadline that we have to register before. The time allowed to register will be at least 30 days, but could be longer, we'll have to wait and see how long is allocated.
Should I register?
Put simply, if there is any possibility you may want to take part in the process, then please register.
If you don't register and then decide you want to participate, you will NOT be allowed if you haven't registered.
If you register it is not compulsory to take part, but you are reserving your right to participate in case you need to.
We would recommend and encourage as many people as possible register as Interested Parties to ensure you can take part.
How do I register?
It is quick and easy to register, you just need to complete the form on the PINS website.
This includes having to make what is called a Relevant Representation. A Relevant Representation is a summary of a person’s views on an application, made in writing. Don’t worry it’s not as bad as it sounds, and we will do our best to help you through what to do at the relevant time!
You will be given the opportunity to make further representations throughout the process, this first one is just to register as an Interested Party.
An Examining Authority is appointed at the Pre-examination stage. They will be the Inspectors who will be Examining the application, and will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport prior to a decision being made.
All Interested Parties will be invited to attend a Preliminary Meeting, run and chaired by the Examining Authority. The Preliminary Meetings are to arrange how the Examination will take place.
Although there is no statutory timescale for this stage of the process, we are expecting it to be around 5-7 months long from the Applicant’s formal notification and publicity of an accepted application.
The Planning Inspectorate has up to six months maximum to carry out the examination.
During this stage Interested Parties who have registered by making a Relevant Representation will be invited to provide more details of their views either verbally at meetings or in writing.
Careful consideration is given by the Examining Authority to all the important and relevant matters including the representations of all Interested Parties, any supporting evidence submitted and answers provided to the Examining Authority’s questions set out in writing or posed at hearings.
The Planning Inspectorate must prepare a report on the application to the Secretary of State for Transport, including a recommendation, within three months of the close of the six month Examination stage.
The Secretary of State for Transport, has a period of three months after the recommendation is made to make the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.
Although this is the usual timeline for decision it is possible that delays can occur, and extensions are made.
Once a decision has been issued by the Secretary of State for Transport, there is a six week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court. This process of legal challenge is known as Judicial Review.
There are very specific grounds on which a JR can be made, so this has to be reviewed and decided upon at the appropriate time.
Dependent on any Judicial Review results, if the DCO is still deemed granted construction of the project can commence.