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Planning news - 4 September 2020

Published: Friday, 4th September 2020

Ministers call on councils to roll out broadband and 5G coverage, Massive solar farm proposed in South Gloucestershire green belt, Boost for Welsh offshore wind sector. And more stories...

Our planning news is published in association with ThePlanner, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

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Ministers have written to local authorities urging them to boost gigabit broadband rollout and 5G mobile coverage.

The government intends to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible, and aims for most of the population to have 5G coverage by 2027.

In a joint letter, digital infrastructure minister Matt Warman and local government minister Simon Clarke urged councils to follow latest guidance on land access and valuation. The move aims to speed up deals granting access for new infrastructure, such as 5G masts and full-fibre broadband cabinets on public land.

The ministers have also asked councils to appoint a ‘digital champion’ to work across multiple teams to ensure a cohesive digital infrastructure strategy. To this end, the ministers said councils should also use the central government’s dedicated “barrier-busting” team, which is responsible for removing the obstacles to roll-out.

In a further move, the government is offering guidance on the safety and benefits of 5G to help councils tackle disinformation about the new mobile technology.

Warman said helping people get access to fast and reliable connectivity was a top priority for the government.

“Councils have a vital role to play in the roll-out of digital infrastructure and while there is good work going on up and down the country, there is more we can do,” he added.

“I’m writing to local authorities with new guidance and advice to help them break down some of the barriers to roll-out and give them the tools they need to quell quack theories about 5G.”

28 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner

A planning application has been submitted for a massive solar farm across 106 hectares in South Gloucestershire’s green belt.

The proposal for Larks Green Solar Farm, by Enso Green Holdings, comprises photovoltaic panels and a battery storage facility near Iron Acton substation between Thornbury and Yate, close to the M5.

The generating station would supply 49.9MW of renewable electricity to the National Grid, providing the equivalent annual electrical needs of around 17,000 homes, according to a planning statement accompanying the application.

“The anticipated CO2 displacement is around 23,000 tonnes per annum, which represents an emission saving equivalent of a reduction in 7,400 cars on the road,” it added.

The battery storage facility would reinforce the power generation from the solar farm, said the application. It would store energy at times of low demand and releasing to the National Grid at times of higher demand or low sunshine.

The development would operate for a minimum of 35 years, with the potential for low-intensity sheep grazing among the solar arrays, maintaining an agricultural use of the site, which stretches across 24 adjoining fields. On decommissioning of the generating station, the site would continue in agricultural use.

South Gloucestershire Council is due to decide the application in November.

28 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner

The Crown Estate, manager of the seabed around most of the UK coast, has awarded rights for two offshore wind projects in Wales.

A lease agreement has been given to developer Blue Gem Wind for the proposed 96- megawatt Erebus floating wind demonstration project, located in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea, about 44 kilometres from the Pembrokeshire coast.

This is the first time that rights have been awarded for floating wind in Wales, marking a significant moment for the Welsh offshore wind sector.

Seabed rights have also been agreed for the proposed extension to the Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm (known as Awel y Môr), located off the coast of North Wales.

Once consent is given, the extension could deliver up to 576MW of new capacity, adjacent to RWE Renewables UK’s existing project.

With seabed rights under their belts, the companies involved can make progress with environmental assessments and surveys, secure access to the grid and seek planning consent through the statutory processes.

27 August 2020
Roger Milne, The Planner

Everton Football Club has unveiled revamped designs for its £500 million stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock after a series of consultations attended by more than 60,000 people.

The original plans were submitted last December but prompted objections from UNESCO, Historic England and The Victorian Society.

Under the revamped design, the stadium’s West Stand will include a stepped plaza, while a multistorey car park has been removed and solar panels relocated to the stadium’s roof. The development has also been reduced in height following guidance from the council on the scheme’s impact on the surrounding docks, a World Heritage Site.

The club’s proposals include restoring a grade II listed hydraulic tower and tramlines at Bramley-Moore, which is a disused and inaccessible Victorian dock. The scheme would also preserve the dock walls under the stadium so that the site could be reverse-engineered back into a dock should the club ever leave.

Everton’s stadium development director Colin Chong said the consultation and the size of the planning application, which will be one of the largest received by Liverpool City Council, meant the local authority may have to convene a special planning committee toward the end of the year to decide the scheme.

A new 28-day consultation will be launched for the community to comment on the revised designs, which are due to be lodged with the council early next month.

Everton said the nearly 53,000-seat stadium would be worth £1 billion to the economy and generate up to 15,000 jobs, making it a key part of the city region’s post-Covid recovery plan. The club hopes to start construction on the site early in 2021 and scheme is expected to take three years to complete.

27 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner

Oxford City Council has unveiled plans to introduce air quality targets that surpass legally binding goals.

The council has published a draft Air Quality Action Plan that includes a target of limiting the annual mean concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to 30 milligrams per metre cubed (µg/m3) by 2025.

The move is thought to be the first of its kind in the country.

From 2021, the new local target will be reviewed annually and progress will be reported publicly every year. Concentrations of NO2 would be measured at all council sites.

The UK’s National Clean Air Strategy, which is legally binding, sets a 2025 target to limit the annual mean concentration of NO2 to 40 µg/m3. Oxford states that this target is “not safe” and that lockdown has presented an opportunity to raise ambitions and accelerate action. It says its proposal is “both stretching and realistically achievable”.

Deputy leader Tom Hayes said: “By setting a stricter target than the government’s own target, we believe we are doubling down on our commitment to clean air, public health and social justice.”

Four priority areas, defined under the plan, focus on developing partnerships and improving public education, supporting the uptake of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles, reducing emissions from industry, services and domestic heating, and encouraging a modal shift in transport by reducing the need to travel in the first instance and increasing the use of public transport.

The council worked with Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth to develop the plan, which will come into effect next year following consultations.

27 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner

Gatwick Airport will press ahead with its planning application to convert its Northern Runway into routine use.

The move follows the airport’s plans to cut a quarter of its workforce – around 600 jobs – because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced passenger numbers by 80 per cent.

The airport has formally started the process to bring the standby runway into routine use by submitting a notice to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) of its intention to prepare an application for development consent. 

Gatwick will submit a scoping request to PINS next month and this will set out its proposed approach and key issues to be included in the process.

Following the publication of its masterplan in July, Gatwick announced it would prepare a development consent order (DCO) to bring the standby runway into routine use for smaller, departing aircraft alongside the main runway by the mid-2020s. 

“As the biggest private investments in our region for many years, the start of the process to use our existing Northern Runway is a significant milestone,” said Gatwick’s chief planning officer Tim Norwood. “This project has the capacity to offer significant local economic benefits, new jobs and an exciting future for the region.

“As we take our plans forward, we are committed to working in partnership with our local communities, councils and partners to ensure we grow sustainably and present information in a clear and transparent way, including a more detailed stage of public consultation on the project next year.”

The first stages in the DCO process will involve Gatwick carrying out surveys and preparing detailed environmental information on the runway plans later this year.

A public consultation will be held next year, after which further updates to the plans will be incorporated. An application for development consent will then be made to PINS.

28 August 2020
Huw Morris, The Planner