The Third Runway readies for take-off as Heathrow Airport begins consultation on draft proposals for the design and location of the airport expansion. The consultation is a ‘non-statutory consultation’ under the Planning Act 2008 and runs until 28 March 2018.
So what does this mean exactly? And should you be returning your seat to the upright position and stowing your tray table?
What does the consultation cover?
Heathrow Airport Limited ('HAL') are seeking views on options for the location and layout of the proposed runway and associated facilities and upgrades, and also on new airspace principles (but not flight path options). Broadly-speaking, the key components of the project are:
- a runway of either 3,200m or 3,500m in length
- up to three terminal extensions
- various new areas for associated airport facilities, car parking, taxiways and flood management
As part of the works to facilitate the development, various diversions to rivers and highways are being considered, including to the M25, A4 and A3044.
What is a ‘non-statutory consultation’ under the Planning Act 2008?
The Planning Act 2008 established a 'streamlined' consenting regime for major infrastructure that is of 'national significance'. Permissions granted under the Act are called 'development consent orders' ('DCO'), which are statutory instruments granting a range of powers and permits for the construction, operation and maintenance of the project.
Prior to making an application for a DCO, a developer is required by statute to undertake compulsory (ie statutory) pre-application consultation. Only one round of pre-application consultation is compulsory – but it is customary for applicants to voluntarily undertake one or more rounds of informal (ie non-statutory) consultation first in order to assist with formulation of the proposals and facilitate as much consensus as possible.
In other words, this is an informal consultation round to seek feedback on a limited set of high-level strategic options for the project. Whilst feedback can be given voicing opposition in principle to the development, objections will not be formally registered with the Planning Inspectorate at this stage.
What happens next?
The outcome of this consultation will be the selection of a 'preferred option'. HAL will then hold a second, also non-statutory, consultation round on this preferred option (expected late 2018/early 2019), which will include more detailed information on the likely environmental impacts, location, design, layout and construction management.
Feedback on the preferred option at the second consultation will then inform preparation of the final scheme to be taken forward in the DCO application to the Planning Inspectorate. It is expected that the application will be submitted in early 2020.
Who is affected?
Obviously, owners and occupiers located in areas to be acquired for the project itself. This includes land surrounding the immediate vicinity of the airport, but also land required off-site for the proposed diversions of roads and rivers.
All interests in the land, not just those of owners, could be subject to compulsory purchase powers which will be granted in the DCO. This could include owners, occupiers, agricultural tenants, mortgagees, holders of easements and rights of way, statutory undertakers and utilities companies.
In addition, there is potential for properties along the construction traffic routes to be affected – albeit temporarily – by construction works and laydown areas.
Beyond that, there will be general operational impacts on the local community such as noise and vibration.
What can I do at this stage?
The DCO process is an iterative and participative one. If you are concerned about how the project will affect you, it is advisable to get involved early, and then stay involved throughout as the proposals develop. Ultimately, the application will be examined at public hearings, and you will have the opportunity to give your views to the Planning Inspectorate panel who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State whether to grant or refuse the DCO.
At this stage however, we would recommend the following:
- check if your land, tenancy or business is likely to be subject to compulsory purchase or is located within any of the compensation zones
- if so, look at the draft policies on property compensation and land acquisition. The consultation is also seeking feedback on these policies
- check the various proposals for highway diversions to see whether you might be affected
- attend one of the consultation events for the chance to speak with the project team about how you might be affected
If you wish to give your views, oppose the project, protect your position for commercial leverage or simply seek a better deal on mitigation for your property or business, it is best to become involved in the process as early as possible, and remain so throughout. Representations which are consistently and actively pursued lead to the best outcomes for affected parties, as the developer will be trying to reduce the numbers of representations as much as possible prior to the public examination process.
We can assist with all aspects of the DCO process, including:
- risk management and advising you on how the proposals will affect your interests, property or business
- helping with preparation of responses to consultations
- preparing written representations to HAL and the Planning Inspectorate to put forward your views and protect your position
- negotiating asset protection agreements and commercial agreements to reflect agreed outcomes with HAL
- recommending experienced surveyors, planners and other consultants who can advise on technical aspects of how the proposals will affect you
- representing you throughout the formal DCO application process and at the public examination hearings of the application
- advising you on eligibility for compensation.
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