Weekly planning news
Planning news - 28 July 2022
DCO granted for Sizewell C against advice of the Planning Inspectorate
Energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has granted a development consent order (DCO) for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station after a delay.
A decision on the DCO was due in May, but a written statement1 was issued by then energy minister Paul Scully saying that a decision would be taken no later than 8 July.
The application was submitted in May 2020 by NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited. It will be predominantly funded by energy company EDF.
The examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate, recommended that “that unless the outstanding water supply strategy can be resolved and sufficient information provided to enable the secretary of state carry out his obligations under the Habitats Regulations, the case for an order granting development consent for the application is not made out”.
The applicant sought consent for the construction, operation and maintenance of a generating nuclear power station and associated development in the Sizewell area of East Anglia, known as the Sizewell C Project.
The application form states that it would comprise two United Kingdom European Pressurised Reactor units with an expected net electrical output of approximately 1,670 MW per unit, giving a total site capacity of about 3,340MW. The applicant also sought powers of compulsory acquisition over land and new rights over land to support the delivery of the project.
The examining authority notes that the government has “clearly and consistently” explained the role it believes nuclear power generation has to play in decarbonising the energy sector and the wider economy. It also takes account of the “urgent” need for new nuclear energy generating infrastructure of the type comprised by Sizewell C.
The development’s “actual contribution” to satisfying this need is “very substantial”, finds the examining authority. It therefore ascribes “very substantial weight” to this in favour of granting consent.
The applicant’s proposal for its principal potable water supply at the time of application was intended to be from mains water, which would be supplied by Essex & Suffolk Water from within the Blyth Water Resource Zone (RWZ).
A number of concerns were raised that the development did not specify how the water demand would be supplied and the implications of the additional demand to create local water supplies, including from East Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council and the Environment Agency. They stated that the water supply options described do “not demonstrate that a suitable and ecologically sustainable source of water can be provided”.
Walker Morris, on behalf of Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL), indicated that the Blyth WRZ does not have enough headroom for the proposed development. The Environment Agency considers NWL abstractions in the Blyth WRZ to be over-licensed, with NWL unable to meet additional water demand by abstracting more water. They argued that a new water main pipeline from another catchment area would be required.
NWL believes that the additional infrastructure required would take until September 2026 at the earliest to deliver, assuming there are no delays.
The applicant submitted a revised water supply strategy, which proposed a temporary desalination plant to supply potable water during the early construction phase until such a time as a new NWL supply transfer main could be operational.
In a joint response, the RSPB and SWT raised concerns that the applicant’s proposed approach to the assessment of potential impacts of the extended use of a desalination plant does not comply with the requirements of the EIA or Habitats Regulations assessments.
The examining authority found that there would not be significant adverse effects from emissions to air from the desalination plant and it was satisfied that there would not be significant changes to air quality from road traffic emissions from vehicles servicing the development.
However, at the close of the examination, the examining authority considers there to be uncertainty as to where the permanent water supply would be sourced and how the necessary water would be transferred to the development, despite the applicant and NWL being confident that a permanent water supply solution would be developed.
“The examining authority concludes that it cannot recommend that the order should be granted without greater clarity about a sustainable water supply solution and any consequential environmental effects,” states the decision letter.
The secretary of state notes that he is “content” if a DCO was granted “there is a reasonable level of certainty that a permanent water supply solution can be found before the first reactor is commissioned”.
He acknowledges that NWL will not be able to supply all forecast household and non-household demand, including the development’s long-term demand, from existing water resources, and that it will need to identify new water resources to meet the forecast demand. However, the secretary of state considers that the information provided demonstrates sufficiently, in principle, “the viability of a mains connection pipeline to the development if some or all of the supply were able to come from that location”.
Overall, Kwarteng is satisfied that the applicant has established an acceptable water supply strategy for the construction period and that a long-term water supply is viable. He believes that the water supply matter does not weigh for or against the DCO being granted, and “attributes this matter neutral weight in the overall planning balance”.
The applicant submitted an assessment of alternative solutions and proposed compensatory measures in respect of the breeding marsh harrier qualifying feature of the Minsmere-Walberswick SPA and Ramsar. The examining authority considered that sufficient information had been provided by the applicant to allow the secretary of state to consider alternative solutions to the development in accordance with the requirements of the Habitats Regulations. It is also satisfied that there are no alternative solutions that would deliver appreciable benefits in terms of adverse effects on the marsh harrier at the Minsmere-Walberswick SPA and Ramsar from noise and visual disturbance during construction and still meet the objectives of the development.
The secretary of state “is satisfied that no alternative solutions are available that would meet the objectives of the proposed development and which would result in a lesser effect on the Minsmere-Walberswick SPA and Ramsar to that predicted to occur as a result of the project”.
Overall, Kwarteng concluded that the benefits, in particular the need for the development, outweigh the adverse impacts of the development and therefore granted the DCO.
Carly Vince, Sizewell C’s chief planning officer, said: “I am delighted that, after months of careful consideration, the government has given planning consent for Sizewell C. It is a big endorsement of our proposals and supports our view that this is the right project in the right place.
“I would like to thank the thousands of people in East Suffolk who contributed to our consultation sessions and the public examination. The input of residents, local authorities, environmental groups and many others has helped us to improve our plans. We will continue to work closely with them to make sure we minimise the impacts of construction and maximise the huge opportunities for the area.
“Sizewell C will be good for the region, creating thousands of opportunities for local people and businesses. It will boost local biodiversity and leave a legacy Suffolk can be proud of.”
Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, Dr Doug Parr, said: “The contrast between dynamic, cost-cutting and innovative technologies in the renewables sector and the limping behemoths of new nuclear power could barely be more striking.
“Sizewell C represents all that’s been wrong about energy policy. A nuclear company, saddled with problems – from failing reactors to having to be nationalised – is getting a stitched-up deal behind closed doors leading to extra costs on energy bills, unmanageable waste for future generations and an expensive white elephant project. That it’s trashing an important nature reserve is an unwanted bonus.
“Rather than wasting time and money on this red herring energy solution, the government should throw everything at making cheaper, cleaner and more reliable renewables the backbone of our energy system. Whatever else is going on in UK politics at the moment, there’s no sign of a fresh start here.”
Suffolk County Council said it will “focus its attention on protecting Suffolk, ensuring that the county sees the maximum benefits from the Sizewell C project”.
Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and environment, said: “During the process, the council’s voice has been strong, and our influence has resulted in a number of significant improvements to the proposals, to make them more acceptable for Suffolk.
“We have taken the concerns of Suffolk residents to the highest levels, from the Planning Inspectorate to the secretary of state. We are disappointed that, in our opinion, some of these have not been listened to.
“It is now our role to ensure that as Sizewell C proceeds, it does so with the least possible impact on Suffolk’s residents and unique natural environment, whilst doing all we can to maximise the economic opportunities for our county.”
Read the decision letter and all other documents relating to the development on the Planning Inspectorate website.2
20 July 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Evidence sought on plans to overcome landfill tax ‘burden’
The government has issued a call for evidence for its proposals to ‘remove barriers’ to redevelop land and promote the regeneration of communities.
As part of its idea, councils across England would receive grants to go towards the transformation of underused and derelict sites.
The grants would be a refund of the costs of landfill tax. The tax was introduced in 1996 to encourage a shift away from sending waste to landfill and towards recycling, reuse and recovery.
The government said it is currently valued at £98.60 a tonne with a lower rate of £3.15 for the least polluting material.
The call for evidence asks for views on the need for and design of a scheme to support councils to overcome the landfill tax “burden”.
Environment minister Lord Benyon said: “This grant will help councils build new homes and businesses on derelict eyesore sites – delivering more homes, and regenerating towns and cities.
“Landfill tax has done a fantastic job in preventing unnecessary waste – but it’s important it doesn’t act as a barrier to regeneration.”
Alan Mak, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, added: “Ensuring that communities across England have the tools to transform their local areas is central to our levelling-up mission.
“I’m delighted that we’re exploring this bold new scheme which could remove unintended barriers for local authorities who want the best for their communities, whilst protecting our natural environment from contamination.”
Views are sought on how to ensure a grant scheme would not undermine the waste hierarchy or incentivise illegal dumping. Under the plans, applicants would need to demonstrate that use of landfill is reasonably necessary. Steps must be taken to minimise the quantity of waste that will be landfilled.
The call for evidence closes on 18 August. More information can be found here3.
25 July 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Trans-Pennine DCO accepted by Planning Inspectorate
National Highway’s A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project development consent order (DCO) application has been accepted by the Planning Inspectorate to move to the pre-examination stage.
The £1 billion Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) will lead to the dualling of the remaining single carriageway sections of the dualled and key junctions between M6 Junction 40 (Penrith) and improvement of the A1 at Scotch Corner.
National Highway’s submission came following a series of consultations last autumn with local communities in which more than 1,200 people and organisations provided feedback on designs.
Lee Hillyard, National Highways’ A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project director, said: “We are pleased that our DCO submission has been successful and accepted by the Planning Inspectorate and this marks another significant milestone for this important project.
“I’d like to thank the members of the public and stakeholders for their input throughout the consultation process and we will continue to keep them informed of the latest developments in relation to the project.”
If the plans are approved the work is expected to begin in 2024.
More details about the application can be found here4.
21 July 2022
Prithvi Pandya, The Planner
Council to appeal against Dunsfold drilling permission
Waverley Borough Council’s executive has agreed to seek permission for a High Court challenge to the decision by the former housing minister to allow hydrocarbon mineral exploration for a period of three years in Dunsfold, Surrey
A community group is also challenging the approval.
Stuart Andrew issued the decision on the recovered appeal in June. He accepted an inspector’s conclusion that the short-term nature of the proposal would mitigate both harm to the landscape and the impact on residents and businesses.
Surrey County Council has refused consent for the application, and an appeal has been submitted by UK Oil & Gas (UKOG).
Waverley Borough Council opposes any oil and gas exploration at the site, which lies in the Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) immediately adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Paul Follows, leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “Drilling for gas at Dunsfold will lead to irreversible harm to our environment, to local businesses and to local people. We are absolutely opposed to it in any form and will consider all legal means to stop it.
“It is completely at odds with our declared climate emergency and similar declarations made by the county council and the government. In this country we should be massively increasing our investment in renewables where we have genuine competitive advantage, such as offshore wind, rather than onshore oil and gas in the middle of the Surrey Hills.”
The Good Law Project is supporting legal action being brought by local community group Protect Dunsfold. The scheme could, the not-for-profit campaign organisation argues, cause severe damage to Surrey Hills, and if it goes ahead it could open the door to future projects that will add to the UK’s carbon footprint.
“Our challenge centres on a decision by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, under the leadership of Michael Gove, to overturn Surrey County Council’s initial refusal of planning permission. This is despite admitting it would cause ‘a significant level of landscape and visual impact’,” says the Good Law Project.
"We believe there are a number of weaknesses in this decision. The government did not properly consider the climate impact of unmitigated emissions from natural gas exploration and did not give sufficient weight to the need to conserve an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
258 July 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Mitigation scheme announced for nutrient-neutrality planning issues
Natural England will establish a nutrient mitigation scheme to help wildlife and improve access to nature through investment in projects such as new and expanded wetlands and woodlands.
The government says the scheme will allow local planning authorities to grant planning permission for new developments in areas that have nutrient pollution issues, ensuring that building can go ahead.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will provide funding for the scheme.
Nutrient-neutrality issues are affecting 74 local authorities, with nutrient pollution being an urgent problem for freshwater habitats and estuaries that are home to wetland birds, fish and insects. Increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, for example, can speed the growth of certain plants, which disrupts natural processes and damages wildlife.
In 2018, ‘Dutch N’ came before the European Court of Justice, which ruled that articles 6(2) and 6(3) of the EU Habitats Directive, as implemented in the UK by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, should require that new development affecting Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) achieve nutrient neutrality.
Natural England responded by revising guidance for local authorities on how to conduct an appropriate assessment of all housing applications to guard against nutrient-related problems.
As a result of these revisions, housing schemes in 74 local authority areas must now demonstrate nutrient neutrality before building can begin.
Research by Lichfields and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) suggests that this is delaying an estimated 100,000 homes.
Through the nutrient mitigation scheme, developers will be able to purchase ‘nutrient credits’ that will discharge the requirements to provide mitigation, explained the government. Natural England will accredit mitigation delivered through the scheme so local planning authorities can grant planning permission for developments that have secured the necessary nutrient credits.
In addition to the mitigation scheme, the government explained that a new legal duty will require water companies in England to upgrade waste water treatment works by 2030 in ‘nutrient-neutrality’ areas to the highest achievable technological levels. This will be introduced to the levelling up and regeneration bill through an amendment by the government.
Natural England chair Tony Juniper said: “Wetlands and estuaries are home to a wide variety of internationally important wildlife species, from wading birds to insects and from fish to special plants. Pollution from excess nutrients is causing serious damage to many of these fragile places and if we are to meet our national targets for nature recovery it is vital that we take concerted, coordinated action to protect them.
“The duty on water companies and the nutrient mitigation scheme mark significant steps forward, and will help join up the various approaches to improving water quality and bring about multiple other benefits. They will provide the tools needed to help planning authorities, developers and water and land managers to both build new homes and support the healthy rivers and lakes that are vital for restoring nature and creating beautiful places for everyone to enjoy.”
Levelling up secretary Greg Clark added: “It is essential that new homes do not impair the quality of our rivers, streams and wetlands. These measures will ensure the development can take place, but only where there is practical action taken to protect our precious aquatic habitats."
David Renard, Local Government Association (LGA) environment spokesperson, said: “Councils want safe, clean, thriving natural environments alongside the sustainable development of housing, growth and jobs.
“It is important to strike the balance between ensuring that councils can provide new homes for local people alongside protecting our environment such as our rivers. Councils have always been clear that limiting new developments alone will not be enough to improve the state of English rivers. Our recent research5 found 17,000 homes a year were impacted by development bans, so we are pleased that these measures will mean some areas will be able to build homes again.
“However, we also need to act quickly to reduce all pollution at source. It is positive that new obligations are being placed on water companies and that Natural England will play a more active role in finding mitigation solutions and it is also critical to maintain the protections for our rivers and to remain focused on delivering the reduction of pollutants from entering the rivers in the first place.
“Councils are at the centre of this ambition and it is vital that the government and its agencies, housebuilders, the agricultural sector and water companies all come together with councils to continue to find short-term solutions while doing everything we can to reduce pollution at source.”
Brian Berry, chief executive at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “The government has made the right decision to address industry concerns about the impact of nutrient neutrality which was halting much-needed new housing development. While it is important that steps are taken to protect our natural environment, the current rules were having a chilling effect on an industry already facing many hurdles to build.
“It is right that responsibility has now been placed on the water and sewage companies to address capacity of the water system to deal with nutrient pollution. This is an important recognition that the impact of building much-needed new homes is proportionately small. The announcement of the new nutrient credit system mustn’t be too onerous for micro developers and we stand ready to work with the government on the details about how this will work.”
22 July 2022
Laura Edgar, The Planner
Last chance to give your views on RTPI education policy
The RTPI is seeking members’ views on its accreditation policies and procedures as part of a review.
The survey6 closes on 31 July.
The reflections on planning education and skills in planning practice will aid the updating of learning outcomes and broadening access into the profession.
The review is intended to ensure that the RTPI’s degree accreditation procedure is fit for purpose. It will focus on the professional standards and core learning outcomes for initial planning education. It is not looking at the subsequent post-qualification licentiate process nor the assessment of professional competence to become a chartered town planner.
Permission sought for logistics hub in Motherwell
XPO Logistics has submitted a planning application for a £40 million logistics hub at a site bounded by Edinburgh Road and Legbrannock Road, Newarthill, Motherwell.
The scheme includes biodiversity enhancement measures and associated offices for the 40-acre site, which adjoins the company’s existing transport hub.
The warehouse would be 300,000 square feet in floor space, and would be used for storage and distribution.
It is expected that up to 473 direct jobs could be created by the scheme.
Work begins at York Central
Homes England has confirmed that John Sisk and Son Ltd will deliver more than £100 million of critical infrastructure at York Central.
Work is expected to begin imminently on the city centre brownfield site, which has been stalled for more than 40 years.
Situated adjacent to the railway station, the 45-hectare site will be transformed into a mixed-use neighbourhood comprising residential, cultural, recreational, commercial and outdoor amenity spaces. When complete, it will provide up to 2,500 homes, 20 per cent of which will be affordable, and over a million square feet of commercial space for offices, retail and leisure.
Homes England said that over the next three years, John Sisk and Son will put in place the key infrastructure needed to enable the work. This includes building a bridge over the East Coast Main Line railway that features pedestrian and cycle lanes segregated from the carriageway, and a new pedestrian and cycle footbridge will also be added to the existing Water End Bridge.
Uttoxeter Starbucks and EV plans approved
East Staffordshire Borough Council has approved Godwin Developments plans for a new commercial scheme in Staffordshire.
The scheme will comprise a Starbucks drive-through store and six ultra-rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging points.
The 0.64-acre development site is situated just off the A518 and next to a newly opened Lidl store. Uttoxeter’s main railway station is in close proximity and a population of nearly 20,000 lives within a three-mile radius.
The development will be operated by The EV Network, an independent EV charging infrastructure company, which will provide six ultra-rapid EV charge points (150kW+). The scheme will also feature 24 standard and two disabled parking bays as well as cycle storage and pedestrian access from the nearby food store.
Cambridgeshire housing plans approved
South Cambridgeshire District Council has approved plans submitted by Cheffins for 80 new homes in Northstowe, Cambridgeshire.
The new development, located on the Digital Park site, will span 2.42 hectares to the western side of Station Road, close to the Guided Busway.
Cheffins achieved planning permission on behalf of the landowner Middlereach Ltd, along with the collaboration of developers Homes England and Endurance Estates.
This site will be in addition to the larger Northstowe Extension, being developed by Homes England and Endurance Estates, which is set to deliver 4,000 new homes across 210 hectares.
The new homes on the Digital Park site will comprise affordable homes and are set to be delivered in over the next 24 months.
Lancashire care homes plans submitted
Muller Property Group has applied for planning permission to transform a 0.96-acre brownfield site in Clitheroe, Lancashire.
The proposed plans will see the demolition of the existing buildings to be replaced with a new 70-bed residential care home.
The home will provide a care facility for people with nursing and dementia needs. Plans include en suite facilities for all rooms, associated access, car parking and landscaping and will create approximately 70 new jobs for the area.
The site is currently occupied by a furniture showroom and its associated car park, a warehouse, a school wear mail order business together with some empty buildings. The site is on Pendle Road, west of the junction to Highmoor Park.
The scheme will include facilities such as a cinema, hair and nail salon, café/bistro, plus day spaces with varying functions for residents. All residents will benefit from communal amenities and landscaped areas.
Milton Park Nebula scheme approved
Vale of White Horse District Council has approved plans for a tech box scheme at Milton Park, a business, science and technology community in Oxfordshire.
The scheme, named Nebula, has been designed with space, technology, life science and engineering companies in mind, promoting the growth of start-ups and cross-industry collaboration within the science and technology community.
The development will comprise a total gross internal area (GIA) of just under 80,000 square foot, featuring seven new research and development workspaces ranging from 6,000 square feet up to a single building of 30,000 square feet.
Nebula will be located on Park Drive and feature sustainably sourced materials throughout, including laminated timber beams in place of steel, reducing embodied carbon significantly.
The surrounding outdoor space will be landscaped by the Milton Park estates team to attract local wildlife and promote biodiversity, while also creating a space for occupiers to relax and unwind.
Milton Park is aiming for BREEAM ‘Excellent’, the world’s sustainability assessment method for infrastructure and buildings, as well as an A-rating Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the highest possible band for building energy efficiency.
Permission sought for workspace at NOMA
Plans for two office buildings at NOMA have been submitted to Manchester City Council.
The new buildings, 2 and 3 Angel Square, will comprise 440,000 square feet of grade A office space.
The scheme has been designed by architects Cartwright Pickard. It will connect with the public realm around NOMA. The buildings will be net-zero carbon operational energy, as defined by the UK Green Building Council, and the target is BREEAM Outstanding.
Plans submitted for Fleet House retrofit
Real estate group Atenor and the London studio of architecture practice HOK have submitted plans for a retrofit of Fleet House, EC4, to the City of London Corporation.
Atenor acquired Fleet House in April 2022. The building is located on New Bridge Street near Blackfriars Station and within the Fleet Street Conservation Area.
HOK’s design retains 80 per cent of the existing structure and features a planted façade, a range of outdoor spaces and a new public passageway, Bridewell Passage, that will connect Bridewell Place to Bride Lane. It aims to support employee health and wellbeing, maximise daylight and views and provide a flexible, modern workplace.
26 July 2022
Laura Edgar and Prithvi Pandya, The Planner