Guidance on obtaining consent for development of energy infrastructure: overhead lines.
Consents for the construction of overhead lines with a nominal voltage of less than 132 kilovolts or that are less than 2 kilometres in length are regulated by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) under the provisions of section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989.
Development consent is needed for all but the most minor lines in England and Wales - see The Overhead Lines (Exemption) (England and Wales) Regulations 2009.
The Planning Act 2008 regulates development consent for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and the threshold set in the Planning Act 2008 for Overhead Lines is for applications for lines with a nominal voltage capacity of 132 kilovolts or greater and more than 2 kilometres in length.
The UK Energy Portal
The UK Energy Portal processes applications for consent under the Electricity Act 1989 for overhead power lines and necessary wayleaves.
Statutory Consents Regime for Overhead Power Lines
This guidance provides:
- an outline of the statutory consenting process in England and Wales under section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 to install and keep installed electric lines above ground (“overhead lines”)
- guidance on thresholds and application fees
- it replaces guidance previously contained in Joint Circular 14/90 for section 37 applications in England and Wales which has been cancelled by the Department for Communities and Local Government
- the application fees in this document have been updated as in following section.
Fees for applications for overhead lines in England and Wales under section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 are implemented by The Electricity (Applications for Consent) Amendment (England and Wales) Regulations 2013.
Revised fees were introduced from 6 April 2017 by The Electricity (Applications for Consent)(Amendment)(England and Wales) Regulations 2017.
The fees payable from 6 April 2017 are:
|Overhead line with a nominal capacity not exceeding 132kV||£402.50|
|Overhead line with a nominal capacity exceeding 132kV||£902.50|
|Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Development application (additional fee)||£375.00|
|Screening opinion fee payable to the Secretary of State||£60.00|
The additional fee for an application that is EIA development reflects the scale, complexity and/or sensitive location of those applications and includes costs for a specialist Environmental Adviser to assess the Environmental Statement.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and power lines
The government published a response on 16 October 2009 to the Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields (SAGE) First Interim Assessment: Power Lines and Property, Wiring in Homes and Electrical Equipment in Homes:
To implement the Department’s actions to the SAGE First Interim Assessment, the following voluntary Codes of Practice were introduced in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:
This Code of Practice provides that industry will report to government on the prevalence of optimum phasing at 3 year intervals.
- the first report: Phasing of UK overhead power lines at 132kV and above, a report from Energy Networks Association to government, December 2013
- the second report: Phasing of UK overhead power lines at 132kV and above, May 2017. The Secretary of State received the second report on 15 May 2017. This report was due to be submitted to the secretary of state by December 2016. The Energy Networks Association suggested to the Secretary of State that the reporting period be extended from 3 to 5 years. However the Secretary of State decided not to extend at this time and wrote to the Energy Networks Association with his decision:
- the third report is due in May 2020
On 21 October 2011 the Department of Health published its response to the SAGE Second Assessment: Electricity Distribution (including low-voltage and intermediate voltage circuits and substations) and Report on Discussions on Science (“SAGE2”).
The Department asked the electricity industry to undertake some work in order to fulfil the SAGE 2 recommendations in regard to measures relating to low voltage distribution networks and substations. In response, the Energy Networks Association published Engineering Recommendation G92: guidelines for best practice in relation to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) in the design and management of low voltage networks.
Applications for consent must comply with:
- Schedule 8 to the Electricity Act 1989
- The Electricity (Applications for Consent) Regulations 1990
- Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000
The Guidance Note The Statutory Consents Regime for Overhead Power Lines in England and Wales under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 provides further information.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)
The department must consider the environmental consequences of all applications.
Key regulations include:
- The Electricity Works (EIA) (England and Wales) Regulations 2017 no. 580
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 no. 1012
- The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 no. 1013
As a public body, the department also has wider duties to promote biodiversity and ensure public participation in its decision-making.
Local Planning Authorities have the right to object to an application, and if that objection cannot be overcome by the applicant or addressed by an appropriate planning condition, the Secretary of State is obliged to arrange for a public inquiry to be held.
Inquiries are held under the provisions of The Electricity Generating Stations and Overhead Lines (Inquiries Procedure) (England and Wales) Rules 2007.
Compulsory purchase orders
In accordance with Schedule 3 to the Electricity Act 1989 compulsory purchase powers can be used by statutory undertakers to acquire land or rights over land for the installation and retention of electric lines. Compulsory purchase is intended as a last resort to secure the assembly of all the land needed for the implementation of projects. Compulsory Purchase Orders should only be made where there is a compelling case in the public interest to do so. In such cases, the developer (also known as the Acquiring Authority) will make an Order and then seek confirmation of that Order from the Secretary of State. Where statutory objections are raised (i.e. objections from owners, lessees and occupiers) the Secretary of State is required to hold a public inquiry before a decision can be made on the Order.
Public inquiries in England and Wales relating to electricity infrastructure are held in accordance with:
- The Acquisition of Land Act 1981: The Compulsory Purchase (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 2007
- or in circumstances where the Secretary of State considers it is more appropriate for the Inquiry to be conducted by written representations procedure, The Compulsory Purchase (Written Representations)(Ministers) Regulations 2004 will be engaged if the objector(s) to the Compulsory Purchase Order have provided their permission to the Secretary of State for the Inquiry to proceed in this way.
Where the Compulsory Purchase Order relates to Statutory undertakers’ land, please refer to Section 16 or Section 31 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced guidance on compulsory purchase procedures for England only.