“Although there is no specific limitation in scale as to what could be included within the permitted development, in reality it is limited as it does not authorise EIA development – so no new motorways or express roads; and no new roads over one hectare or motorway services over 0.5 hectares unless the secretary of state concludes that they are not likely to have a significant effect on the environment,” he said. “Realistically, then, the new order will apply to more modest changes in and around ports.”
“Proposals must be put forward by a relevant border department – for example, HMRC – with the ‘site owner’, such as the harbour authority, only engaged on the application. Presumably, in practice, it is likely that the border department will have discussed things at length with port operators, as it is difficult to see how the border department will be best placed to lead on the necessary infrastructure to process port traffic efficiently through the port and surrounding areas,” he said.
Tyrrell said that the geographic restrictions of the order were presumably based on “key ports where there might be possible pinch points in terms of border processing”, and that it was possible that similar orders could follow from the devolved administrations in relation to sites in Wales and Scotland “given the importance of ports there to cross-Irish Sea trade”.
Tyrrell also noted the “underlying assumption throughout the order of reinstatement”, with the presumption that the need for any new infrastructure would ultimately fall away and the sites will be returned to their former use and condition.
“Absent a future change in trading rules with the EU – or significant technology changes rendering the processes quite different – it is not clear to me why the need for infrastructure would fall away,” he said.
“The order presupposes that this will happen in relatively short order too – the general position is that reinstatement plans should be submitted on or before June 2025. Those plans will set out a timetable for reinstatement, and the base position is that buildings should be removed – although the secretary of state will be able to exempt buildings,” he said.
“The order sits alongside other steps the UK government is taking to prepare for the end of the transition period, for example regulations made today providing for customs bulk declaration processes,” Tyrrell said.