Bedford Borough Council
"Comments received from Bedford Borough Council in its capacity as Local Authority and Highway Authority: Bedford Borough Council Representations: 1.1 The Council is responding to this application for a Development Consent Order as Local Authority and Highway Authority. The Council will be making separate representations as a land owner. 1.2 Bedford Borough Council (BBC) do not object to the overarching principle of the development and it is recognised that there are benefits of the scheme for the Borough as this is a strategic scheme that will reduce congestion and improve journey times, particularly in the BBC area in and around the Black Cat roundabout, albeit with some local network changes. 1.3 At this stage further discussions are ongoing with the applicants and relevant Council Officers and some or all of the issues raised here may be resolved and clarified by the time we reach the hearings. At this time the key issues the Council wish to make representations about relate to: • Highways • Footpaths and Public Rights of Way • Heritage • Pollution and Noise • Air Quality • Contaminated Land • Borrow Pits • Wildlife and Ecology 2.0 Highways 2.1 The Traffic Operations team has agreed to the closure of three direct accesses onto the A1 (Chawston Lane, Nags Head Lane and The Lane) and has agreed preliminary designs for a new link road accessed from a new roundabout junction on Roxton Road, which allows access to all affected properties. The team has also agreed preliminary designs for the reconstruction and slight realignment of Roxton Road overbridge, and for new access arrangements to Kelpie Marina. 2.2 The Traffic Operations team has agreed to the scope and basic principles of the proposed de-trunking scheme, and will continue to work with Highways England on the detail of these proposals, particularly with reference to the viaduct over the River Great Ouse to the south of St Neots. 2.3 With regards to traffic management, diversions and construction management plans, the Traffic Operations team will continue to engage with the relevant Highways England technical teams on the proposed plans and will continue to review these as the details emerge. 2.4 The Transport Policy team has been kept informed of the development of the Traffic Model for the scheme by Highways England, and is in agreement with how it reflects the situation in Bedford Borough in current and future years. 2.5 Discussions have taken place between Highways England and the Transport Policy team on the impact of the scheme for bus users. However, further discussions will be required on the implications of detailed design during and after construction on the location of bus stops on the A1, and the impact on local bus services in adjacent villages. For cyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorised users, further discussion is required on local network access to and around the Black Cat junction. 2.6 The Council wishes to ensure that potential sustainable development in the area is not compromised by the design of the new road. It therefore wishes to be reassured that: • A junction on the new road to serve the proposed East West Railway stations in the area is deliverable. • Sufficient space to accommodate sustainable modes of travel is provided on the Barford Road overbridge. • Sufficient space for north-south pedestrian and cycle paths adjacent to the East Coast Main Line under the new road is maintained. 3.0 Footpaths and Public Rights of Way 3.1 No significant objections to the proposal however it must be ensured appropriate linkages for pedestrians and cyclists are maintained and created particularly where the new road crosses the railway lines. 4.0 Heritage 4.1 The Bedford Borough Historic Environment Team (hereafter Heritage Team) are satisfied that the pre-submission archaeological evaluation work comprising desk-based assessment, aerial photographic analysis, geophysical survey, and trial trenching provide an adequate baseline assessment of the archaeological potential within the proposed route. The assessment allows likely impacts on the archaeological remains to be predicted and a programme of archaeological mitigation work to be formulated. 4.2 The Heritage Team are not in agreement with the proposed Archaeological Mitigation Strategy as submitted and believe further discussion over required amendments is necessary in order to provide further detail and clarification on the work proposed and how it will comply with the Archaeological Design Brief prepared jointly with our counterparts at Cambridgeshire County Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. The Archaeological Mitigation Strategy appears to be trying to set the scope of the required works: however within development led archaeology in the planning system it is the LPA and not the applicant that sets the scope of the required archaeological works within a Design Brief, and the Archaeological Mitigation Strategy should then set out the methodology for meeting the requirements of the Design Brief. 4.3 The Heritage Team do not believe requirement 9 (Archaeology) within the draft Development Consent Order provides sufficient detail on the nature of the archaeological work: indeed alternative wording detailing the programme of work to include preparation of Site Specific WSI’s, fieldwork, post-excavation assessment and analysis, and publication and archiving should be agreed. Clear reference also needs to be made to the archaeological work following an Archaeological Mitigation Strategy and Site Specific WSI’s approved by the relevant LPA’s and prepared in accordance with the Archaeological Design Brief. 4.4 The Heritage Team are not in agreement with the terminology used in assessing the impacts on below ground archaeological remains within Chapter Six of the Environmental Statement (Cultural Heritage), it seems somewhat misleading to describe the effect on remains which will be permanently destroyed as being of ‘slight adverse effect (not significant)’. 4.5 The Heritage Team feel that the setting impact assessment on designated heritage assets contained within Chapter Six of the Environmental Statement (Cultural Heritage) would benefit from illustration of the impacts through viewpoints from and across (i.e. with the scheme in the background of an overall view of the asset) the affected assets towards the scheme and from the scheme towards the assets. These views could also use modelling to illustrate the scheme as proposed on these viewpoints. When conducting the assessment the focus seems to have been on changes to the visible setting of the monument with little account taken of other aspects of the setting such as changes to tranquillity etc. through increased noise. Finally there appears to be little assessment of setting impacts from the proposed borrow pits or in relation to ‘Parish Church of Saint Mary Magdalen’ (Roxton, grade II*). 4.6 Following the information submitted in 7.7 ‘Black Cat Junction Design Options’, the Heritage Team accept that there is no safe or viable way of retaining Brook Cottages (a grade II listed building proposed for demolition) in its current position whilst delivering the objectives of the scheme. 4.7 It is agreed with A.5.2.1 that demolishing without rebuilding Brook Cottages would constitute ‘substantial harm’ to its significance for the purposes of the NPPF. 4.8 However, the Heritage Team have advised that dismantling and reconstructing Brook Cottages could potentially result in a more preferable level of ‘less than substantial harm’ to its significance in this instance; particularly given the contribution currently made by setting and the method of the building’s construction. This depends on details and evidence which have not yet been provided as part of the application (see below). The applicant should be able to demonstrate that every effort to avoid the total loss of the statutorily listed building has been pursued, and there is no evidence within the application to show this. 4.9 The Heritage Team remain seriously concerned that Brook Cottages has not been subject to a detailed survey, and also that such a significant element of the scheme remains unresolved. Document 6.3 is limited in scope (accepted in the body of the text) and does not provide a strong enough evidence basis to justify the assertion that dismantling and relocating the timber framed building would not result in ‘substantial harm’ to its significance. The potential harm to the building following its dismantling, indeed if it could even be dismantled and relocated, has not been clarified by the applicant. The Council are concerned with the arguments set out in A5.6.4 and A.5.6.5, which ‘jump the gun’ in terms of the outcome of any detailed survey. The listed status (A.5.7) would be for Historic England and the Secretary of State to consider. 4.10 The Heritage Team remain seriously concerned regarding the applicant’s approach of seeking to offer the building to the Museum of East Anglian Life (A.5.6.1), which is put forward as the only alternative to its total loss (A.5.5.1). No contract has been produced, and therefore such plans can be afforded no weight at this stage. However, if as the Case for the Scheme asserts its reconstruction will result in substantial harm it is unlikely to prove an attractive proposition for any museum. The application does not demonstrate that an alternative approach has been sought, such as relocating the building within the vicinity of its current position within the Borough (an approach recommended by Officers). 4.11 For these reasons, Officers are of the opinion that the application cannot currently demonstrate that the listed building’s total loss has been clearly justified, as per paragraph 194 of the NPPF and paragraph 5.131 of the National Policy Statement for National Networks. 4.12 Requirement 16 of the DCO states that the method statement for demolition must “include an assessment to determine which structural elements of Brook Cottages are capable of reconstruction”. This should have already been resolved and should not be subject to a Requirement following the making of the Order given the building’s status. There is also concern that this work is of fundamental importance and not a matter which should be reserved for the post-Consent process. The question of whether the building can be reconstructed should be resolved prior to determination; with its eventual location (if feasible) subject to a Discharge of Requirement. On this matter, the Council would welcome the input of Historic England for guidance. 4.13 The Council requests an issue specific hearing on the impact on the historic environment. 5. Pollution and Noise 5.1 Whilst significant information has been supplied as to the potential impact of the operation of the prospective roads, there is very little data to consider for the construction phase and borrow pits. Most of the assessment considers that this will be in further detail at the more detailed design stage but this does not allow Environmental Health to consider viability at this time. 5.2 Areas are of concern with the information supplied at this time are; The noise monitoring was undertaken in 2017 more than three years ago which raises the concern that it is no longer reliable. 5.3 6.1 chapter 11 Noise and vibration • The Scoping assessment was undertaken in mid-2019 and no further baseline monitoring has been undertaken despite agreement with Local Authorities due to COVID. • Precise information on construction works not currently available and suggested to be confirmed at detailed design stage. • Multiple phasing is set to last 45 months if consecutive. Construction works listed in the noise report include utility works, site clearance, earthworks wall construction bridge demolition and road works. • Whilst it could be considered that earthworks may include the borrow pits there is no detailed information on these. • Whilst proposed mitigation systems are suggested these do not include re-siting of borrow pits and if the impact of those pits are unacceptable then this cannot be overcome other than potentially with the “temporary re-housing policy” • Without sufficient information on the use of borrow pits the information supplied at this time is insufficient. 5.4 With respect to the operation of the road once construction has completed, the information supplied in the document suggests that with suitable mitigation road level noise increases would not be a cause for concern. However it should be noted that the exact mitigation is again proposed at the detailed design stage 5.5 For this reason it would be appropriate for Environmental Health to speak at any formal meeting on this to raise our ongoing concerns and we must advise an objection at this time. 6. Air Quality 6.1 The air quality assessment indicated no significant air quality problems for Bedford residents. 7. Contaminated Land 7.1 The associated report indicated no issues of contaminated land and the nature of the proposal is not one that would cause concern from contaminated land. 8. Borrow Pits 8.1 The principle of identifying borrow pits for major infrastructure projects is supported. However, borrow pits are virtual quarries/landfill sites and can have similar environmental impacts. In order to be able to assess any impacts, there needs to be a description of how a site will be worked and then restored. 8.2 As part of the pre-application process, the Council had asked for details of the borrow pits proposed in the Borough area, so that any impacts could be adequately evaluated as part of the environmental impact assessment process. However, a meeting on the optioneering report held a day before the submission of the DCO provided too little detail, too late. 8.3 The Council is concerned that the only control over the borrow pits appears to be through the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The EMP sets out a list of standard practises that could be applied to any similar development and is not site specific. The EMP contains no assessment of any potential impacts. It is does not appear that any of the topic related chapters in the Environmental Statement (ES) contains any assessment of the operation of the proposed borrow pits. 8.4 The DCO contains two requirements for iterations of the EMP. Whilst the second iteration EMP may be expected to contain more detail on the borrow pits proposals, it is not clear what further impact assessments will be provided at this stage. This brings into question whether the DCO currently contains a sufficient description of the proposal or a proper environmental assessment. 8.5 The procedure for the discharge of requirements (Requirement 22) places the authority for approval on the Secretary of State. It is questioned why it is considered that the Secretary of State should be the decision maker in matters of such detail rather than the relevant local authority. 8.6 Requirement 24 – Register of Requirements Following on from the point above, the undertaker is only required to maintain a register for a period of three years following the completion of the authorised development. Local authorities are required to maintain a register of planning applications and decisions with no end date. This applies to the smallest of developments. Why is it, that some of the largest developments in the country may be ‘invisible’ on the planning record after such a short time? The aftercare period for maintaining the landscaping may still apply after the requirement to keep a record of the approved details has expired. 9. Wildlife and Ecology 9.1 Agreed Points A suitable range of up-to-date ecological surveys which are based on evidence from the Bedfordshire & Luton Biodiversity Recording and Monitoring Centre and pre-application discussions have been completed. The DCO in Bedford Borough does not include any statutory or non-statutory wildlife sites, however, it does cross areas of the countryside with wildlife value and several significant commuting and/or foraging corridors. 9.2 Points for Further Clarification The entrances to the bat tunnel are fenced with a mammal entry point in the corner. It is recommended that this hole is slightly taller than the dimensions included on the current structure diagram. In 8.8.23 (it actually says 6.1.1, I think in error) the ES Chapter 8: Biodiversity makes reference to a Biodiversity Management Plan. The LPA’s representative have been unable to find this amongst the available documents but it is key to achieving the biodiversity enhancements and successful mitigation measures built into the scheme. Monitoring the use of the bat tunnel during the operational phase will be vital for evaluating the success of this mitigation feature within this scheme and for future bat mitigation elsewhere. The LPA’s representative was also unable to find monitoring plans within the documents provided, they should be part of the Biodiversity Management Plan. This eastern agricultural area of Bedfordshire has previously been recognised for its farmland bird assemblages and for raptors. The surveys for this scheme confirmed this and highlighted the presence of barn owls, red kite, hobby and other farmland birds. The road scheme includes woodland planting along the embankments in this section to try and reduce road casualties, particularly for barn owls. It is important to note that this would only become effective once the planting has matured and we would encourage early planting where possible. 9.3 There are no issues which need to be discussed at the formal hearing. 10. Conclusion At the stage there are areas which have been highlighted where the proposal is lacking detail and information. The Council will continue to work to seek clarification and agreement on these matters with the applicants prior to the hearings and some of these may require further in depth examination."