Electricity Act 1989 - sections 36 and 37: applications guidance

This good practice guidance sets out the procedure for applications for onshore generating stations and overhead lines under sections 36 and 37 of the Electricity Act 1989, where the development concerned is development requiring environmental impact assessment.

7. Public Inquiry

7.1. Inquiry Process

7.1.1 If a planning authority objects to a section 36 or 37 application within the time periods set out in section 6.2 above, and its objection is not withdrawn, Scottish Ministers must cause a public inquiry to be held and the application will be passed from the ECU to the Scottish Government Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA). However, a public inquiry is not required where the Scottish Ministers propose to grant the application subject to modifications or conditions that will give effect to the planning authority's objection. Where the planning authority has not objected but other parties have, Scottish Ministers will consider those objections together with all other material considerations and determine whether a public inquiry should be held at their own discretion.

7.1.2 An independent Reporter will be appointed by Scottish Ministers to conduct the inquiry. Once passed to the DPEA, the Scottish Ministers usually cease to have a role in the application until the inquiry has concluded and the Reporter's report is received.

7.1.3 Following the close of the inquiry process, the Reporter submits a report to the Scottish Ministers including a summary of the evidence, conclusions and recommendations including the conditions that should apply in the event that consent is granted. Previous reports from the DPEA can be searched for and viewed at the following link: Scottish Government - DPEA - Case List.

7.1.4 The Scottish Ministers must take the inquiry report provided by the Reporter into account in reaching their final decision on the application. The inquiry report will be published at the same time as the Scottish Ministers' decision on an application.

7.1.5 The DPEA website provides a range of information and guidance relevant to the inquiry process. Of particular relevance is Guidance Note 23: Managing an Efficient Inquiry Process which sets out the main steps required to ensure a tightly managed and efficient inquiry and hearing process. This guidance supplements the Code of Practice for Handling Inquiries under Section 62 and Schedule 8 to the Electricity Act 1989.

7.1.6 Guidance Note 23 sets out an overall target timescale of 50 weeks from registration for section 36 applications that go through the inquiry process. Reporters will project manage the case towards this target. However, achieving it will require the co-operation of all involved. Parties should note the indicative timescales in Guidance Note 23 and plan availability accordingly. Where there are delays beyond the Reporter's control in terms of timetabling and/or the submission of additional information under the EIA Regulations, the target may be consequently delayed.

7.2. Changes to the Proposed Development at Public Inquiry Stage

7.2.1 Changes or modifications to the proposed development should be made during the application process while the application is with the ECU and before an application is at the public inquiry stage. Where in the rare case that this is not possible (such as where a change is instigated to give effect to an objection from the planning authority and the case is already at public inquiry) and modifications are proposed, requirements on advertising and consulting on the information in relation to the change or modification may be engaged.

7.2.2 In general, where changes fall to the inquiry process these are likely only to be proposed to mitigate environmental effects and should not result in the proposed development becoming in substance a different development.


Email: Econsents_Admin@gov.scot

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