Final Government approval for a 700MW gas-fired power station came just three weeks before trade and industry secretary Margaret Beckett announced a ‘stricter policy’ on consents for gas projects.
An influencing factor may have been that the station’s US developer, Entergy, was among those that indicated they might mount a legal challenge to a moratorium on gas-fired stations a Government attempt to correct distortions in the electricity market.
Legal action would have inevitably delayed the Government’s plans to reform the electricity market by several months.
In January 1996, Entergy secured Section 36 consent for the combined-cycle gas turbine scheme at Damhead Creek, near Kingsnorth in Kent. But it had not gainedthe detailed Section 14 consents that permit construction and the burning of gas.
These were withheld during the moratorium on consents imposed last year while the Government carried out its energy review.
However, a spokeswoman in Entergy’s London office said it had received the Section 14 consents for the project at the start of June.
Three weeks later, when Beckett launched the consultation exercise on the energy review’s proposals, she said that until the market reforms were complete, planning consents would be considered ‘on the basis that new natural gas-fired generations would normally be inconsistent with our energy policy concerns relating to diversity and security’.
She added that the environmental benefits of combined heat and power schemes might override such concerns. However, Damhead Creek is not a CHP project.