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Southampton pipeline project granted development consent

Words: Laura Edgar
Alok Sharma / Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Energy secretary Alok Sharma has granted a development consent order (DCO) for Esso Petroleum Company’s Southampton-to-London pipeline project, which will carry aviation fuel.

His decision was in line with the recommendation made by the examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) comprises the construction of a cross-country pipeline to replace an existing line that Esso said is approaching the end of its economic life.

It will run from Boorley Green in Hampshire to Esso's West London Terminal in the London borough of Hounslow. It has an internal diameter of 30cm – 5cm larger than the diameter of the current pipe.

According to the application form, the project also comprises:

  • A new ‘pigging’ station at Boorley Green to allow the entry and exit points for Pipeline Inspection Gauges (PIGs) from time to time.
  • 14 remotely operated in-line vales along the pipeline to allow isolation of sections of pipeline for maintenance or in case of emergency.
  • A pressure transducer (PT) to monitor pressure.
  • Pipeline markers along the route at all road crossings and boundaries and new red and black colour-coded flight marker posts to trace the pipeline route when inspected by helicopter.
  • Modifications to the pigging station at the Esso West London Terminal storage facility.
  • Single replacement external pump at Alton Pumping Station.

Sharma considers the project to be in accordance with Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy (NPS EN-1) and National Policy Statement for Gas Supply Infrastructure and Gas and Oil Pipelines (NPS  EN-4) and “benefits from the presumption in favour of oil pipelines”.

Many locations were surveyed to assess the likely landscape and visual impact, including Queen Elizabeth Park, Farnborough; Fordbridge Park; and B377 Ashford Road. Both PINs and the energy secretary agreed that the development would have a “negative impact in the planning balance”. They agreed that the pipeline would not have any “significant effect” on the character and setting of the South Downs National Park.

PINs concluded that the development was unlikely to have a significant effect on biodiversity and would accord with relevant legislation and policy requirements. As mitigation would be secured through the DCO, the inspectorate thought this should carry neutral weight in the planning balance. Sharma saw no reason to disagree.

Both PINS and Sharma agreed that the development would not “give rise to any unacceptable risks in respect of flooding”.

PINS' overall conclusion was that the effects of the development “are not so great as to offset its significant benefits and that the substantial weight for the need for the project as set out in the national policy statements outweigh the harm”. Sharma reached the same conclusion.

The decision letter and all documents relating to the project can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website.

Image credit | Foreign and Commonwealth Office