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Administrative Court (Patterson J) quashes refusal of development consent order for underground gas storage project

DATE: 17 Jan 2014

On 17 January 2014 Patterson J quashed the decision of the Secretary of State for Climate Change to refuse development consent for an underground gas storage facility at Preesall in Lancashire: Halite Energy Group Ltd v Secretary of State for Climate Change [2014] EWHC 17 (Admin). This is the first nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) to have been refused consent under the Planning Act 2008. Refusal had been founded on the guidance given in paragraph 2.8.9 of National Policy Statement EN-4 (Gas Supply Infrastructure) as to the need for applicants to demonstrate the suitability of the site for the proposed NSIP. Here, the Secretary of State found that the applicant had not demonstrated that the site was suitable to store the volume of gas proposed and consequently had not justified the need for the extensive surface infrastructure required to service the proposed NSIP. The Court held that, having regard to the inquisitorial nature of the procedure under the Planning Act 2008, the applicant had not received a fair opportunity to address this issue during the examination procedure. Moreover, the decision was founded on too wide an understanding of the requirements of paragraph 2.8.9 of NPS EN-4.  

Timothy Mould QC appeared on behalf of the Secretary of State.