Article by Graham Winter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The UK Treasury launched the third edition of the UK National Infrastructure Plan on 4 December. Some of the implications for Wales are set out below:
- Confirmation that the UK Government has reached an agreement with Horizon Nuclear Power of an in-principle guarantee to support the financing of a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa (now called Wylfa Newydd) by the end of 2016. The plan does however say that this is "subject to final due diligence and ministerial approval". This is listed as one of the ‘top 40’ UK infrastructure projects.
- Following a reduction in the time allowed for Judicial Reviews of planning decisions from three months to six weeks earlier this year and a consultation on further reforms, the UK Government has now announced it will introduce a specialist planning court in 2014 with set deadlines to handle planning judicial reviews in Wales and England and may introduce other reforms as well.
- Allowing local authorities in Wales (and Scotland) access to cheaper borrowing at a Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) special project rate to support the delivery of priority infrastructure projects. The plan says that up to £400 million of borrowing will be made available from 2014-15 to 2015-16, subject to agreement with the Devolved Administrations on the precise mechanics and conditions.
- Launching an overarching review of the Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) regime originally established by the Planning Act 2008 and amended by the Localism Act 2011. NSIPs are considered by the Planning Inspectorate with the final decision made by the relevant UK Secretary of State. In Wales the NSIP regime only applies to large-scale energy projects and some types of harbour development. The 28 turbine Brechfa Forest West onshore wind scheme was the first in Wales to be approved through the NSIP regime.
- The plan says that the UK Government is also committed to working with the Welsh Government to secure investment in Wales’ trans-European networks, including the M4 but also the A55 and the A465 and it will also be looking at how best to support the infrastructure needs of Welsh ports that are served by these trans-European routes.
- The plan also summarises announcements already made such as rail electrification in south Wales, borrowing for the Welsh Government’s M4 proposals, funding for broadband in ‘hard to reach’ parts of Wales and for Cardiff and Newport as ‘super connected’ cities and the new prison in Wrexham.