Commons Gate

The proposal for a National Policy Statement on Ports (HC 217-iii)

Transport Committee 27 Jan 2010

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Evidence given by:
2.45 Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)
Sir Michael Pitt, Chair, Dr Ian Gambles, Director of Strategy and Robert Upton CBE, Deputy Chair
3.30 Department for Transport
Paul Clark MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State, Richard Bennett, Head of Ports Division, and Philip Grindrod, Team Leader, Ports Policy Review : Uploaded on 29 January 2010

Q316 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): This surprises me a little. The sort of projects you are talking about are large projects, are they not?

Sir Michael Pitt: Yes.

Q317 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): You are perhaps talking about taking considerable areas of green field site. You do not assess the need for that particular project? Need does not come into it? It is just whether the marketplace decides to have it? You are prepared to take the fact that you will be destroying a green field site and you do not look at the need?

Sir Michael Pitt: The Commissioners would be taking into account the impact on the environment and the loss of land and would be taking a view on the suitability of that location for new port development.

Q318 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Sorry, Sir Michael, you are not really answering the question. You do not look at whether this particular project is needed? It is just whether it is going to upset the greater crested newt?

Mr Upton: The NPS is quite clear that these are major investments. They are not made capriciously. The NPS is quite clear that it is for the market to decide whether it wishes to risk its capital in a particular development. It is for the Commission to decide whether the adverse impacts of that development might outweigh its benefits.

Q319 Chairman: The guidance does say that you should ensure effective competition between ports and provide resilience in the national infrastructure. That implies that you would be making judgements about the impact of the proposed development on existing facilities.

Sir Michael Pitt: I think that reference is there to make the point that it is quite possible that there will be greater port capacity available in the country than the minimum needed to cope with the amount of goods going in and out of the country. There will be an element of spare capacity in order that the marketplace can operate effectively.

Q320 Chairman: Would you say that you would be precluded from assessing the regional, economic impact of a proposal? Would that be outside your discretion?

Sir Michael Pitt: No. The Commissioners concerned would take evidence on regional impact, would want to consult the relevant regional body or bodies and would want to take into account regional implications when coming to their decision about an individual site.

Q321 Chairman: How would that be weighted as against other considerations?

Sir Michael Pitt: As Dr Gambles said, we are required by law to give precedence to the National Policy Statement but, nevertheless, Commissioners would want to take into account local development frameworks, other local plans, regional plans and so on in coming to their conclusions. I would expect them to address those plans in their reasoned justification, the report that they write, when they come to their decision.

Mr Upton: I think it is back to Sir Michael's point that there are no algorithms for this. It is impossible for us to say in advance, "We will give more weight to this than we will to that." What the guidance in the NPS seeks to do is to give us the framework for exercising judgement. That judgement has to be exercised on the case which is brought to us and the case which is brought against that, if that applies. In other words, it is only when we are into the actual evidence and examination of that we can start to make those judgements.

Q322 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): When you come to a decision you see as very complex, would you find yourselves being taken to court over that decision?

Mr Upton: The Act provides for the possibility of judicial review if we give grounds for judicial review.

Q323 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): As you are a new organisation, there are no judicial guidelines. I suspect it could well happen.

Sir Michael Pitt: We are extremely conscious of the potential for judicial review. The way in which we conduct our business and the very careful way that we are trying to answer your questions is a consequence that. Though, if we do misdirect ourselves in some way, we would lay ourselves open to judicial review. Perhaps I could just reassure you that we are spending a great deal of time and energy making sure that the processes we adopt and the way that we conduct our business will be legal and, as much as we possibly can, reduce the risk of judicial review.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB