Planning & Environment

The DPEA is currently awash with applications for necessary wayleaves under the Electricity Act (search under the mysterious “Scottish Government – Other” category to see for yourself). This is perhaps not surprising given new projects such as the East Coast 400kV Reinforcement or the continuing high volume of wind farm projects, coupled with less frequent wayleave applications in response to applications to remove existing apparatus. As the DPEA website reveals, the majority of “live” applications are in fact sisted at any one time to allow negotiations between the parties, and most of them are ultimately withdrawn before any formal determination is made.

It is partly in response to this logjam that the Scottish Government is shortly due to publish draft guidance on the necessary wayleave process aimed at applicants and landowners. The consultation period is expected to be short (4 weeks), and so those with an interest will have to respond promptly. Reform of the legislation itself is not on the cards in the short term, but may well be considered in the future. This initiative follows hot on the heels of a similar piece of work by DECC earlier this year (Guidance to be published on 1st October). This will introduce some useful changes, such as an emphasis on written submissions over hearings, but shied away from the (attempted) introduction of a voluntary code of practice (too difficult box). While it is unlikely that the Scottish exercise will produce a vastly different outcome, some divergence of approach on procedural aspects is certainly possible.

The DPEA stats do tend to suggest that the current process (or practice) doesn’t work particularly well for either side, albeit that a compulsory mechanism clearly needs to be available. So what might we expect to see in the draft guidance?

  • Greater emphasis on pre-application discussions?
  • Moves towards a streamlining of the DPEA process to reflect the government’s efficiency agenda?
  • A consequent freeze on sists?

Electricity companies and landowners would both no doubt argue for changes which cannot be addressed by guidance, but the current exercise should at least start to move us in the right direction. On a personal note, a bit more transparency of paperwork with the Consents Unit and DPEA would be nice…

Karen Hamilton
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