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Planning news - 24 November 2022

A development consent order (DCO) has been granted to the A417 Link Road bypass project between Gloucester and Swindon in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Transport minister Huw Merriman granted the DCO to the scheme which is intended to improve the connection between two dual carriageway sections of the A417 at Brockworth and Cowley as well as links between the M4 and M5.

The A417/A419 provides a key route between Gloucester and Swindon that helps connect the Midlands and the north to the south of England and also offers an alternative to the M5/M4 route via Bristol.

The road carries around 40,000 vehicles a day with frequent and unpredictable congestion, forcing motorists to divert on to local roads to avoid tailbacks and the area is also an accident hotspot.

National Highways, which is behind the scheme, said the congestion causes severe difficulties for neighbouring communities and local roads were not built to accommodate so much traffic.

The DCO covers:

  • a new junction at Ullenwood, connecting the A417 to the A436 and Leckhampton Hill;
  • a new junction with slip roads at Shab Hill;
  • a new junction at the Cowley roundabout;
  • diversion of the Cotswold Way National Trail via a new overbridge;
  • diversion of the Gloucestershire Way long-distance footpath via a new wildlife crossing bridge; and
  • construction of overbridges at Cowley and Stockwell.

Merriman acknowledged that “it would not be possible” for the proposal to avoid harm to the AONB but was satisfied that the need for the development had been established and its impact mitigated as much as possible.

Mitigation includes two miles of drystone walls, six miles of hedgerow, 25 hectares of native woodland, three hectares of scrub, six hectares of neutral grassland and 75 hectares of calcareous grassland.

“This is a significant investment of £460 million in our road network that will improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for road users and local communities,” said National Highways chief executive Nick Harris. “We are designing the scheme to fit sympathetically within the landscape, providing the opportunity to link habitats and support environmental sustainability, while unlocking economic growth in Gloucestershire and beyond.”

The granting of the DCO means preparatory work on the project can begin early next year with construction scheduled to begin later in 2023.

The decision letter and all other documents can be found on the Planning Inspectorate's website.1

21 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

A major road project aimed at easing traffic jams on the A57 between Manchester and Sheffield has secured a development consent (DCO).

The A57 Link Roads project, previously known as the Trans Pennine Upgrade Programme, will include the creation of two new link roads.

In the first, the Mottram Moor Link Road will involve a new dual carriageway from the M67 junction 4 roundabout to a new junction on the A57(T) at Mottram Moor.

In the second, the A57 Link Road will comprise a new single-carriageway link from the A57(T) at Mottram Moor to a new junction on the A57 at Woolley Bridge.

National Highways, which is behind the scheme, said the route between the Manchester and Sheffield city regions currently suffers from heavy congestion that “restricts potential economic growth and limits job opportunities”. Around 25,000 vehicles travel along the A57 through Mottram every day.

“The project will also provide relief for the thousands of commuters, hauliers, and other drivers who rely on the vitally important Manchester to Sheffield route every day,” said Stewart JonesNational Highways’ delivery director for major projects in the North West.

In a letter approving the Planning Inspectorate’s approval of the scheme and granting the DCO, transport minister Huw Merriman accepted the link roads would “result in an increase in carbon emissions”, but concluded that the “proposed development is consistent with existing and emerging policy requirements to achieve the UK’s trajectory towards net zero”.

The scheme is the 120th National Significant Project and the 47th transport application to have been examined by the Planning Inspectorate within the timescales laid down under the Planning Act 2008.

The decision letter and all other documents can be found on the Planning Inspectorate website2.

23 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Government unveils funding to kick-start urban regeneration

A total of 41 local authorities will benefit under the latest round of government funding to kick-start regeneration in towns and cities and build 2,200 homes.

Almost £35 million has been allocated from the £180 million Brownfield Land Release Fund 2, to bring “unloved, council-owned land back into use” by transforming redundant industrial sites, disused car parks, and derelict buildings into housing schemes, said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

A total of 59 regeneration projects will see about 2,200 homes – more than 800 of them affordable. The DLUHC estimates that the schemes will generate about 7,000 jobs in housing and construction.

Among schemes awarded funding is a £1.6 million project to transform Lancaster’s Canal Quarter regeneration area with 140 homes and cultural venues. In Mid-Devon, £280,000 will release land for two modular, affordable housing sites in Tiverton and Cullompton, and funding of £219,155 in Great Yarmouth’s centre will help to transform old industrial buildings into 32 affordable homes.

The remaining £140 million of the fund is to be allocated over the next two years, creating up to 17,600 homes in the country, as well as supporting up to 54,000 jobs. The funding will be delivered through the One Public Estate, a partnership between the DLUHC, the Office of Government Property and the Local Government Association.

21 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

Project seeks to restore 70 acres of seagrass in the Humber

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Ørsted’s Hornsea Project Four offshore wind farm are working together to develop a seagrass restoration project.

It could become the "largest" such project in the UK and Europe. It is aiming to restore up to 74 acres of lost meadow in the Humber Estuary.

Seagrass is a valuable habitat for the marine food chain. It is also able to sequester large amounts of carbon.

Funded by Ørsted’s Hornsea Four - a proposed offshore wind farm - the Humber Seagrass Restoration focuses on Spurn Point, situated off the East Riding of Yorkshire.

The restoration would be a resilience measure for the offshore wind farm, providing potential new and improved nursery habitat for prey species that seabirds such as kittiwake, guillemot and razorbill depend on.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is collecting and planting seagrass seed across a 9.8 acres pilot area. This first phase will be completed by early 2023.

The second phase involves the restoration of up to a further 74 acres. This phase will be funded if Hornsea Project Four secures development consent early next year.

If so, the full restoration could span the next seven years. Specialists at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust would sustainably collect seeds from areas of healthy seagrass, growing them in their seagrass nursery and replanting them in carefully selected restoration areas.

Dr Sarah Randall, environment manager at Ørsted, said: “Hornsea Project Four will be one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, providing a significant source of low-carbon energy to UK homes and businesses. Throughout development of the offshore wind farm, we have been working alongside a range of stakeholders and the local community to ensure that the project is built sensitively and sustainably.”

The Humber Estuary once supported seagrass meadows, with records of dwarf seagrass covering more than 500 hectares at Spurn Point, and vast swathes from Grimsby to Cleethorpes. However, industrialisation of the estuary and subsequent decline in water quality saw the beds deteriorate between the 1930s and 1980s.

The project intends to provide the foundation for Ørsted’s flagship Seascape Restoration Programme. Alongside the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, it is working on a wider programme to restore nature around the Humber Estuary, including native oysters, saltmarsh and seagrass.

Ørsted wants all of its new renewable energy projects that it commissions from 2030, at the latest, to deliver a net-positive biodiversity impact.

Dr James Wood, fisheries and research manager for the North Sea Wildlife Trusts, said: “This pioneering project is a crucial step for seagrass in the Humber Estuary, and the wider marine environment, it... could be the largest seagrass restoration project in the UK and Europe. Over time, we expect to see huge improvements to water quality, marine habitats, and related species within one of the most important conservation sites in the UK. Following a series of successful restoration trials, the time has come for bigger, bolder action on seagrass restoration.”

17 November 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Government tables amendments to levelling up bill

A series of amendments have been tabled to the levelling up and regeneration bill to bring forward delayed development, strengthening environmental protection and boosting infrastructure.

Under the amendments, developers will have to report annually to local authorities about their progress on sites, with councils given new powers to block planning proposals by builders which have failed to deliver on the same land.

The government said the move is intended to tackle the slow build-out by developers “to make sure much-needed homes are delivered”.

A further amendment obliges water companies to clean up rivers by upgrading wastewater treatment works. Ministers believe that this will lead to a 75 per cent reduction in phosphorus loads and 55 per cent reduction in nitrogen loads from wastewater treatment works across all catchments.

The aim of the amendment is to unlock more homes by reducing the amount of mitigation developers must provide to offset nutrient pollution, with the Home Builders Federation estimating around 120,000 homes had been blocked following Natural England’s intervention this year demanding nutrient neutrality. The amendment will be accompanied by a Nutrient Mitigation Scheme that will make it easier for developers to discharge their mitigation obligations.

“These measures will help us to deliver the homes that this country needs, whilst protecting our precious environment,” said water minister Rebecca Pow. “It is vital that some of our most important wildlife sites are protected against nutrient pollution and water companies will need to step up and play their part to clean up our rivers.”

Another amendment will introduce “street votes” to allow residents to propose more development on their streets including extensions to homes. Planning permission will only be granted when an independent examiner is satisfied that key requirements, such as on design, have been met and the proposal is endorsed at a referendum by the immediate community. The government has also tabled an amendment to pilot community land auctions to test the capturing the value of land when it is allocated for development in a local plan to provide vital infrastructure, including schools, roads, GP surgeries and affordable housing.

Mayors will also receive enhanced powers to manage key route networks and increase transport connectivity across their areas.

A “small number” of public bodies will be allowed to charge for their statutory services “to help provide a better, reliable, quality of advice” to developers and enable faster planning decisions for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects such as wind farms and major transport links.

21 November 2022
Huw Morris, The Planner

National Nature Reserve designated in the Lake District

Natural England has created a National Nature Reserve in Ennerdale, West Cumbria.

The Wild Ennerdale National Nature Reserve covers more than 3,000 hectares of landscape comprising water, forests and mountains.

The Wild Ennerdale Partnership began 20 years ago with the aim of allowing natural processes to shape the ecology and landscapes within the valley. It brings together four organisations: Forestry England, National Trust, United Utilities and Natural England.

Almost two decades of work has "significantly" improved nature recovery across Ennerdale. Sustainable grazing has been promoted across grasslands, forests and open fells as part of the work.

Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: "Wild Ennerdale is a diverse and varied landscape which supports some of our most unique and precious wildlife, including red squirrels, the freshwater pearl mussels that dwell in the river there and which can live for 100 years, and the arctic charr – a fish that has hung on in the valley since the last Ice Age.

"We have been working with partners for some years to improve this already amazing place and its declaration as a National Nature Reserve will enhance the spectacular landscape, wildlife and habitats, safeguarding them for the future while providing space for people to get close to wild nature. National Nature Reserves are at the very centre of our ambition to create a vibrant national Nature Recovery Network comprised of bigger and better places for both wildlife and people. The Ennerdale partnership is a great example of what we have in mind and shows how working together can achieve that aim."

Rachel Oakley on behalf of the Wild Ennerdale Partnership said: “We are constantly reminded of the nature and climate crisis we face now and for the future and this announcement shows how working together and prioritising nature can reap rewards for us all.

“These landscapes are constantly evolving and need to be ‘fit for purpose’ to adapt and respond to the many challenges we face. Nature can thrive if given space and a helping hand and we are seeing tangible results of that in Ennerdale. We are doing this through partnership working and today is very much about acknowledging and thanking the wide range of individuals and groups locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally who have supported this journey to date. NNR status is about prioritising nature recovery and we will continue to do that at scale, along with many other great projects around the county."

It is the largest nature reserve in the county and the ninth largest in England.

16 November 2022
Laura Edgar, 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 - 24 November 2022

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      The Planning Portal is delivered by PortalPlanQuest Limited which is a joint venture between TerraQuest Solutions Limited and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). All content © 2023 Planning Portal.