The Planning Inspectorate have today (3rd March 2023) issued a Procedural Decision letter addressed to Thurrock Council, this relates to and asks questions about Thurrock Council’s participation in the LTC DCO.
Some who have received notification of this letter may be wondering what it all means, so here’s the long story in short, followed by a bit more detail!
In short, the Planning Inspectorate have written to Thurrock council asking for more information and clarification about what is going on with them in regard to the LTC DCO. They have a deadline of 10th March to provide the requested info.
A bit more on what the letter tells us
The letter clarifies that the council’s only representation during the LTC DCO representation period, which ended on 24th Feb 2023, was to advise their representation would follow. However, no other representation was made prior to the registration deadline.
However, as a host authority Thurrock Council is considered an Interested Party whether they register or not, so can still participate in the DCO process if they wish.
The next significant thing the council should be doing is submitting a Local Impact Report (LIR). The deadline for this submission is yet to be set.
This is a an important document, which must be considered by the Examining Authority (ExA) and by the Secretary of State for Transport as part of the processes leading to a recommendation and then a decision on the application. It is also highly likely that the ExA will wish to ask questions of Thurrock Council on matters affecting the area during the Examination.
You can find out more about all the host Local Authorities roles in a DCO in PINS Advice Note 2
What else does the letter say?
PINS confirm that they are aware that the Government have appointed Essex County Council as ‘Commissioner’ and ‘Best Value Inspector’ to investigate, take certain strategic decisions and manage aspects of the services provided by Thurrock Council. This is due to the huge financial mess at the council which has been widely reported.
Because of this rather unique position PINS have now written to the council for confirmation of a number of things in regard to the LTC DCO process. This includes:
- whether the council plan to participate in the Pre-examination period
- details of if and how the government’s appointment of Commissioners to Thurrock Council will or might affect their position in regard to the LTC DCO
- and asks for confirmation that those responsible will keep PINS up to date of any changes as things progress.
The council have to respond to PINS by the 10th March
Funding for local authorities to make representation in DCO
Large projects like the proposed LTC impose additional duties and costs to the host local authorities. So the applicant, NH in this instance, and the host local authorities can enter Planning Performance Agreements (PPA) in which actions, timescales and funding contributions to cover additional duties and costs are agreed and provided for.
To ensure these are fair and proportional PINS have asked NH to provide a document outlining the details of these PPA no later than two weeks after the closure of the Relevant Representations period (24th Feb 2023).
This latest letter today highlights that the deadline for NH to provide such details is 10th March 2023. PINS go on to also ask Thurrock Council to let them know details of any PPA they have with NH by the same date.
We had actually recently written to Thurrock Council to ask questions about their participation in the LTC DCO process ourselves, and are waiting a response.
We believe this is quite a unique position whereby a host local authority may not have funding to be able to make representations at a DCO. With growing numbers of local authorities filing for 114 (council equivalent of bankruptcy) for various reasons we assume this may be unchartered territory for PINS and the council, and who knows what might happen.
PINS themselves outline in the letter how important the Local Impact Report (LIR) is, and that it must be considered by the Examining Authority and by the Secretary of State for Transport as part of the processes leading to a recommendation and then a decision on the application. What would happen if the council are unable to submit the LIR remains to be seen.
That said we are still unclear of the council’s position and whether they have been or will be able to arrange an agreement with NH to cover the necessary funding to allow them to make the necessary representations for the DCO.
Correspondence between Thurrock Council and PINS in Jan/Feb 2023 regarding the concerns and issues the council face have since been published on the PINS LTC website under the S51 advice tab.
LTC DCO Index – click here