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Planning news - 15 December 2022

Fines paid by water companies to be ring-fenced for the environment

The fines paid by water companies for polluting rivers and seas will be ring-fenced for projects that aim to create wetlands, re-vegetate riverbanks and reconnect meanders to the main channel of rivers, said the government.

Currently, fines imposed by Ofwat and those arising from Environment Agency prosecutions are returned to the Treasury.

Under these plans, the money will go to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to be invested directly back into environmental and water quality improvement projects.

Rebecca Pow, water minister, said: “The volume of sewage being discharged into our waters is unacceptable, and can cause significant harm to our wildlife and sensitive habitats.

“It is right that water companies are made to pay when they break the rules, but it is also right that this money is then channelled back into improving water quality.

“Water company fines reached a record level last year, and moving forward these plans will significantly increase funding that will be used to recover, protect and enhance our natural environment.

“This is on top of the £56 billion investment we’re requiring water companies to invest in improving our water infrastructure, as well as holding them to account through tough new targets.”

The Environment Agency has concluded 56 prosecutions against water and sewerage companies since 2015, totalling £141 million in fines.

The government is also giving the Environment Agency £2.2 million a year for enforcement activity against water companies. This could be the Environment Agency imposing civil sanctions or pursuing criminal prosecutions with the courts.

7 December 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Decision deadline for A1 Northumberland scheme extended

Transport minister Huw Merriman has said the deadline for a decision to be made on the A1 Northumberland – Morpeth to Ellingham development consent order (DCO) application has been extended to 5 September 2023.

Merriman made the written ministerial statement on behalf of transport secretary Mark Harper.

The Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) consists of two parts: Part A (Morpeth to Felton) and Part B (Alnwick to Ellingham).

Part A comprises the widening of the existing single carriageway to a dual carriageway for an approximately 12.6 km section of the existing A1 between Morpeth and Felton.

Part B involves the widening of the existing single carriageway to a dual carriageway for an approximately 8km section of the existing A1 between Alnwick and Ellingham.

The examining authority – the Planning Inspectorate – sent its report and recommendation on 5 October 2021. A decision should be issued by the transport secretary three months later.

However, the decision deadline was first extended from 5 January to 5 June 2022, and then to 5 December 2022, each time by way of a written ministerial statement.

Merriman said the reason for the extension remains the same as was set out in the ministerial statement dated 6 June:1 “The extension is in light of the written statement made by the secretary of state on 26 May 20222 regarding the Union Connectivity Review.”

Several of Sir Peter Hendy's Union Connectivity Review recommendations concern ongoing projects, including National Highways A1 Northumberland - Morpeth to Ellingham NSIP.

It relates to his recommendation for a multimodal study of the East Coast Corridor to identify the best opportunities for improvement.

Merriman's written ministerial statement can be found on the UK Parliament website.3

8 December 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Six Surrey councils sign up to newt protection scheme

Six local planning authorities in Surrey have signed up to a district licensing scheme that seeks to protect great crested newts.

The largest newt species in the UK, the great crested newt has declined in population over the past 50 years.

The district licensing scheme is an alternative to seasonal surveys and standard licensing. Developers’ fees pay for the creation, restoration, and long-term management and monitoring of ponds, to ensure that they benefit newts for years to come.

NatureSpace CEO, Dr Tom Tew explained that the scheme offers a year-round, quick, simple, and risk-free solution for developers of all sizes and types to meet their great crested newt obligations.

“Our partners at the Newt Conservation Partnership create, manage and monitor these aquatic and terrestrial habitats long-term, guaranteeing a sustainable future for newts."

It provides developers with a year-round ‘one-stop shop’ for their newt licensing needs. When applying for planning permission, there is no need for surveys, which speeds up the planning process.

NatureSpace provides the scheme, and currently, 50 councils across the Midlands and the south of England are signed up.

The six local planning authorities now offering the scheme to developers are Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, Guildford Borough Council, Mole Valley District Council, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Surrey County Council and Tandridge District Council.

John Beckett, chair of the environment and safe communities committee at Epsom & Ewell Borough Council, said: “We are excited to be working with NatureSpace on this scheme which will ensure that great crested newt habitat is increased and enhanced, enabling this protected species to flourish in the borough. Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has already met with the Newt Conservation Partnership to identify the location of new ponds in Horton Country Park Local Nature Reserve. We look forward to continuing this vital conservation work across the borough in the coming years. An additional benefit to the scheme will be to assist developers by expediting planning applications in areas that have been assessed by NatureSpace.”

Elmbridge Borough Council will be joining the scheme in the coming weeks.

8 December 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Spelthorne submits local plan for examination

Spelthorne Council has submitted its draft local plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination.

The plan covers the next 15 years.

It facilitates the delivery of affordable housing, local infrastructure, and a sixth-form college. It also sets out greater protection for urban open spaces and measures to tackle the impact of climate change.

The council has been working on the local plan for five years, during which it has hosted three public consultations.

More information about the local plan and the examination can be found here4.

8 December 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Permission sought for wellness resort in Kent

Plans for a surf wellness resort on the site of a former colliery spoil tip in Betteshanger Country Park, Kent, have been submitted to Dover District Council.

The Seahive has been designed by Hollaway Studio architects.

The £40 million flagship project's masterplan is for a 15-acre site. Plans include a  Wavegarden Cove surf lagoon at its centre, which can generate more than 20 different wave types from 50 centimetres to two metres, as well as a clubhouse featuring a surf academy, a restaurant and bar, conference facility, retail outlet, chill-out spaces, dedicated work area and immersive balcony.

A wellness facility with yoga and fitness zones, cold water therapy and meditation pavilions and a small number of holiday lodges also feature.

The Seahive plans to run holiday camps for underprivileged children as part of the government’s ‘Holiday Activities and Food Programme’ and offer apprenticeship opportunities through partnerships with Kent-based universities.

Jim Storey, founder and CEO of The Seahive, said: “My vision has always been far greater than just creating an inland surf lagoon. The Seahive is a purpose-driven, inclusive business anchored around the power of blue health and its impact on both physical and mental wellbeing.”

7 December 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Swansea cable car and chairlift visitor attraction takes shape

Site investigation works are now underway at Kilvey Hill overlooking Swansea as proposals for a major new outdoor leisure attraction make headway.

The works are a step forward for the development, which is being led by New Zealand-based Skyline Enterprises. It includes a cable car and chairlift system, luge runs, a sky swing, walking trails, a zipline, and food and drink facilities.

The proposed cable car system would run to the top of Kilvey Hill from the area of the Hafod Morfa Copperworks, so some spaces at the existing Landore park-and-ride facility will be closed off while the site investigation takes place.

However, a planning application has yet to be submitted for the project.

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart has said: “The scheme layout and proposals for this exciting development are now close to being finalised, but site investigation works are also needed for the scheme to move forward.

“These works will help inform the detail of a planning application that will be available for public feedback as soon as it's submitted.

“What's being proposed by Skyline Enterprises for Kilvey Hill is a world-class leisure attraction for the people of Swansea and visitors to the city, although I'd like to reassure residents in communities close to the proposed development that no aspect of the scheme would pass over people's homes.”

Skyline Enterprises owns and operates two outdoor adventure parks featuring cable car rides and other attractions and restaurants in New Zealand, as well as luge parks in Canada, South Korea, and Singapore.

9 December 2022
Roger Milne, The Planner


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

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    Planning news - 15 December 2022

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