Infrastructure Bill 2014-2015 (UK) Update

My last post on the Infrastructure Bill is here. NB: the Commons Library Note linked from my earlier post has been since updated (20 October 2014) and provision for a right of access for shale gas/hydraulic fracturing is now included in the Infrastructure Bill.

The Bill has cleared the House of Lords and returned to the House of Commons.

The Infrastructure Bill 2014-2015 makes provision for a range of matters, including: (updated)

(A) Environmental control of plant and animal species (Part 3)

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 will be amended to allow species control agreements (between regulators and land owners) and orders to be made by regulators in England and Wales (as they can be in Scotland) for invasive non-native species of plant or animal, or for a species of animal that is no longer normally present in Great Britain.

A species is non-native if it is listed in Part 1 or Part 2 of Schedule 9, or (if an animal) it’s natural range does not include any part of Great Britain or it has been introduced to Great Britain.

The regulators will include Natural England, the Environment Agency, and the Forestry Commissioners in England, and the Natural Resources Body for Wales in Wales.

The definition of owner (who can enter into species control agreements) includes leaseholders.

The Secretary of State will be obliged to issue a Code of a Practice in relation to species control agreements and orders in England. The Welsh Ministers must issue a similar Code of Practice in Wales.

(B) Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing: right to use deep-level land (Sections 38 & 39)

This previously was not included in the Bill, whilst consultation was occurring. It is now included as Section 38. Section 39 clarifies this right, and confirms the right to use may extend to using any chemical. Sections 38 and 39 also apply to the Crown.

The Bill as brought from the Lords is here.

Infrastructure Bill 2014-2015 (UK)

This Bill (to be enacted as an Act and started in the House of Lords) is in 5 Parts with 5 Schedules. It applies mainly to England and Wales, but some elements also apply to Scotland.

Part 2 makes provision (England and Wales) for the control of invasive non-native species through species control agreements and orders, similar to the existing system in Scotland.

Part 3 makes provision about Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) (England and Wales) and certain certain cross-border oil and gas pipelines (Britain), under the Planning Act 2008 (the 2008 Act deals with matters that are not devolved as regards Wales and Scotland). Amendments relating to the deemed discharge of planning conditions apply in England only.

NB: section 22 of the Planning Act 2008 is to be amended to provide that highway development (roads) will be NSIP if a strategic highways company is or will be the highway authority (Part 1 deals with strategic highways companies).

Part 4 and Schedule 5 make provision about a community electricity right to buy a stake in a renewable electricity development in or adjacent to the community (Britain and internal waters and the Renewable Energy Zone, except the territorial sea next to Northern Ireland).

Invasive Species

My latest post on EU Invasive Species is here. In this post I outline the position on non-native invasive species in Scotland (and England and Wales).

At present, DEFRA’s and the Welsh Government’s network bodies must enter into voluntary agreements with landowners over gaining access to eradicate non-native invasive species. Around 5% do not give authority. In contrast to powers available under plant and animal health to combat pests and diseases, government bodies have no power (England and Wales) to compel landowners to act, nor do they have powers of surveillance nor powers to enter onto land to carry out work.

The proposal is to insert a new subsection 14(4A) into the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to provide for measures relating to species control agreements and species control orders to be contained in a new Schedule 9A.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP)

The Planning Act 2008 established the regime governing applications in respect of NSIP. Changes are proposed to enable the Examining authority (provided for by the Act) to be appointed earlier in the process, and to be comprised of two people (presently it can be one person, or three, four or five people).

Started in the House of Lords, however, the Bill does not include measures that have been widely speculated upon prior to its publication relating to hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and to zero carbon homes.

Bill progress (and explanatory notes) are here.

Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing

The House of Commons Library Standard Note (updated 5 June 2014) Shale Gas and Fracking is here.