The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.
Thurrock Flexible Generation Plant
Received 18 August 2020
From Thurrock Council
From Thurrock Council
“Thurrock Council Relevant Representation This Relevant Representation made is made on behalf of Thurrock Council. The Order Limits, as identified on the ‘Location Plan’ accompanying the submission, is entirely within the administrative boundary of Thurrock Council. Development Plan Policy Overview The statutory development plan for Thurrock is the Thurrock Core Strategy and Policies for the Management of Development (as adopted 2015). Table 3 of the Core Strategy lists a number of Strategic Spatial Objectives including the need to minimise the impact of climate change by supporting the provision of renewable and low carbon energy sources in Thurrock and ensuring that new development incorporates climate change adaptation (SSO17). Policy CSSP2 – Sustainable Employment and Growth identifies the ‘Key Strategic Economic Hub’ of Tilbury as a ‘Growth Sector’ for energy. Paragraph 5.156 identifies that the ‘The Thurrock Climate Change Evidence Base’ identifies increasing renewable and low carbon energy generation as a priority. The pre-amble to Policy CSTP26 states that ‘Thurrock presents unique opportunities for encouraging inter alia low carbon energy generation projects’. Policy CSTP26 encourages opportunities to generate energy from non fossil fuel and low carbon sources at appropriate locations, including Tilbury. The site is within the Metropolitan Green Belt and Table of the Core Strategy reference SSO11 seeks to sustain and enhance the open character of the Green Belt in Thurrock and only allow development in very special circumstances. Policy CSSP4 identifies that the Council will ‘maintain the purpose function and open character of the Green Belt in Thurrock’, and policy PMD6 states that the Council will ‘maintain, protect and enhance the open character of the Green Belt in Thurrock’. These policies aim to prevent urban sprawl and maintain the essential characteristics of the openness and permanence of the Green Belt in accordance with the requirements of the NPPF. Development Plan Policy Designation The Order Limits is subject to the following planning policy designations as defined by the Core Strategy policies map: • Green Belt; • Primary Industrial and Commercial Areas; • Green Chains; and • Local Nature Reserves. It is notable that some areas within the Order Limits have no land use policy designations within the Core Strategy. Summary of Main Issues / Impacts The Council considers that the main issues and impacts associated with the proposals are as follows: • Green Belt • Ecology and Nature Conservation • Landscape and Visual Impact • Heritage Assets • Flood Risk and Hydrology • Geology, Hydrogeology and Ground Conditions • Traffic and Transport • Air Quality • Noise and Vibration • Land Use and Agriculture, and Socio-Economics • Human Health • Climate Change • Cumulative Impact The matters raised at this stage shall need to be subject of further review through the Local Impact Report, which will be reported to a planning committee and this will set out the Council’s position in more detail, along with a Written Representations document. For the purposes of this Relevant Representation the below paragraphs set out the main issues and impacts as considered by the Council. • Green Belt Impact: The principal consideration with this DCO, in planning terms, is the proposed development’s impact upon Thurrock’s Metropolitan Green Belt. The proposal is considered ‘inappropriate development’ with reference to paragraphs 143 and 145 of the NPPF and paragraphs 5.10.10 and 5.10.17 of the NPS EN-1, and this is acknowledged in the applicant’s Statement of Case, para 4.152. The proposal would therefore have an impact upon the openness of the Green Belt but the Council will need to assess whether the applicant’s five factors put forward as ‘very special circumstances’ outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. These matters will need further consideration. • Ecology and Nature Conservation: The applicant’s Statement of Case identifies the nearest ecological designation is the Mucking Flats and Marshes SSSI, the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA and Ramsar sites as well as a number of Local Wildlife Sites. The Council will assess the likely effects upon these areas along with the likely effects upon biodiversity, habitats and all ecological species. The potential impacts on ecology during construction and operation, as well as proposals to mitigate impact are therefore relevant considerations. The Council’s Landscape and Ecology Advisor identifies that the ecological surveys are appropriate; that the loss of a significant part of Walton Common which includes remnant coastal grazing marsh, a habitat of principle importance that was to be included in a Local Wildlife Site; that a Habitat Regulation Assessment identifies the need for mitigation for water quality and hydrological impact as the site is close to the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA; the construction and use of the causeway results in the loss of saltmarsh and risks water contamination to the SPA; and the Illustrative Landscape Plan and an Outline Ecological Management Plan does show large new ponds either side of main buildings however it is not clear if these have potential to provide additional ecological mitigation so all these matters will need further consideration. • Landscape and Visual Impact: The site is not within any national landscape designations but the Council will give consideration to site’s location in the ‘Greater Thames Estuary’ National Character Area and the ‘Tilbury Marshes’ Thurrock character area. The site is a low-lying, flat landform but is dominated by existing electricity infrastructure the immediate vicinity of the development area, which comprises of a sub station (to the south) and numerous pylons. The visual impacts from various viewpoints will also be assessed. Accordingly landscape and visual impact is a relevant issue for consideration. The Council’s Landscape and Ecology Advisor identifies that that this low lying largely flat marshland landscape could be subject to significant landscape effects alone and in combination with other developments in the area from buildings between 12.5m and 15.8m and 48 stacks that would be 40m high, with the design yet to be finalised. These matters will need further consideration. • Heritage Assets: it is noted that there are no designated heritage assets within the site. The Statement of Case identifies that within 1 -3km of the site there are six Scheduled Monuments (forts, blockhouses or anti-aircraft batteries and one earthworks) two Conservation Areas (West Tilbury and East Tilbury), and five listed buildings, including one Grade II* building being the Church of St James in West Tilbury. It is recognised that there is the potential for archaeological remains. The Council will consider impact upon heritage assets as a relevant consideration. The Council’s Historic Environment Advisor considers that there are inconsistencies within the Historic Environment Desk Based Assessment (ES Vol 6: Appendix 7.1) and the Environmental Statement (ES), in some instances the assessment is not considered robust enough, as well as lacking in information such as visualisations from key heritage assets. As such, it is considered that the applicant has not fulfilled the requirements of paragraph 189 of the NPPF, as the assessment is not sufficient enough to understand the potential impact of the proposed development on the significance of the identified heritage assets The issues include the list of heritage assets in the ES, which do not marry up with those set out at section 4.7 of the Historic Environment Desk Based Assessment (ES Vol 6: Appendix 7.1), the grade I listed church of St Katherine and grade II listed Old Rectory are not assessed in the ES, the setting for the relevant heritage assets including in section 4.1 of the ES is not considered in enough detail and not assessed in line with Historic England guidance document GPA3: The Setting of Heritage Assets (2017), such as grade II* Church of St James, which should be assessed separately to the conservation area that is located in as the church is situated on elevated ground with long views over the marshland. The Planning Statement of Case has identified that there would be less than substantial harm to the West Tilbury Conservation Area as a result of the proposed development. It is considered however that due to the reasons set out above, further assessment of the relevant heritage assets is required in order to assess impact. As such, it is considered that this harm may change or may extend to other heritage assets. The Council’s Historic Environment Advisor for Archaeology has commented that further information is required as the lack of fieldwork has resulted in a lack of evidence as to the impact of the development on the below ground archaeological impacts. At present there is no field assessment of much of the area for the proposed development. These matters will need further consideration. • Flood Risk and Hydrology: The area, including land within the Order Limits is generally flat, low-lying former marshland located on the northern bank of the River Thames. The site is located within a medium and high risk flood area (flood zones 2 and 3a). In accordance with the NPPF the Council will give consideration to the flood risk including the Sequential Test and Exception Test (if necessary), the applicant’s Flood Risk Assessment and relevant ES chapter (including hydrology impacts). The issue of flood risk is therefore a relevant consideration. The Council’s Flood Risk Manager has advised that there are a number of points of detail which need to be clarified regarding discharge details, water quality, maintenance and existing watercourses. These matters will need further consideration. The Council’s Emergency Planner acknowledges that the application includes a Flood Warning and Evacuation Plan but further information is required to include a safe refuge area when evacuation is not feasible, and details of actions for contractors and staff to take, in the event that the local flood defence system is breached or overtopped. • Geology, Hydrogeology and Ground Conditions: It is recognised that parts of the site have historically been used for agricultural use so is not likely to be subject of ground contamination. The wider area includes the former coal-fired Tilbury Power Station and substation, historic landfills and former brickworks in Low Street. Accordingly there is the potential for ground contamination and this issue, along with proposals for associated remediation and the impacts upon hydrogeology, are relevant considerations. The Council’s Environmental Health Contaminated Land Officer has no objections subject to the recommendations as set out in the ‘Phase 2 Site Investigation Report’. • Traffic and Transport: It is recognised that the potential impact of additional vehicle movements on the local road network, including the route to the site, during the construction of the development is an important relevant consideration. The Council also considers that the relationship between the proposal and the local walking and cycle network, including public rights of way are relevant considerations. The Council’s Highway Officer has no comments to make at this time but any future comment will be considered in the Local Impact Report and Written Representations stage of the process. The Council’s Landscape and Ecology Advisor identifies that the new pedestrian link to the replacement common land does not link to an existing footway so alternatives will be necessary, and temporary footpath closes along the Thames Estuary Path would impact walkers. These matters will need further consideration. • Air Quality: The proposal would give rise to emissions from construction vehicles on the road network and from the operation phase of the development from the gas engine exhausts. The impacts on air quality from the construction and operational phases of development, including emissions from vehicles are relevant considerations. The Council’s Environmental Health Air Quality Officer has no objections as long as all appropriate mitigation measures are undertaken for limiting dust during the construction phase. Also, the Council’s Air Quality Officer recommends mitigation on the power plant operational side in terms of adopting the use of SCR if it is feasible to further limit any emissions of NO2 from this development. • Noise and Vibration: The proposal would give rise to noise for human and ecological receptors from the construction phase and operational phase of the development. The impacts of noise and vibration from construction activities and during the operational phase of the development are relevant considerations. The Council’s Environmental Health Officer has no objection as the findings of the noise documentation (conclusions in Chapter 11 Paragraph 5) are accepted and the cumulative effects for the construction, operational and decommissioning phases of this development, Tilbury 2 and the Lower Thames Crossing are predicted to be small. • Land Use and Agriculture, and Socio-Economics: Reference is made to the potential impacts of the development on agricultural land use, common land, recreational resources and socio-economic impacts of job creation. These impacts arising from the proposals during construction and operation are therefore an issue for consideration. The Council’s Landscape and Ecology Advisor recognises that the loss of a significant part of Walton Common which includes remnant coastal grazing marsh, as a land use that has a habitat of principle importance that was to be included in a Local Wildlife Site. It is recognised that some of the land within the Order Limits is agricultural land and this will be considered along with the common land exchange and recreational benefits. It is agreed that job creation could be beneficial to the local economy. • Human Health: Reference is made to the health assessment within the application and these include air pollution, noise pollution and traffic levels, and these matters are relevant considerations. The Council’s Public Health Officer has noise concerns on and would require further discussion or information on the assessed health impact of noise on local residents, which appears to be underestimated in relation to the existing population. Local residents already experience higher rates of long-term conditions. Welcome the proposed mitigation measures in terms of reduced working hours during the construction phase. One of our concerns was that during the operational phase there could be an escalation of noise during night time hours which could result in interrupted sleep and it is not clearly defined how often this would occur. • Climate Change: The emission of greenhouse gases due to the burning of natural gas fuel from the gas engines throughout the lifetime of the development would impact upon climate change and therefore this impact is a relevant consideration. • Cumulative Impact: Relevant consideration will be given to the Port of Tilbury expansion project referred to as Tilbury 2 as an existing Development Consent Order, along with the Lower Thames Crossing and the London Resort, both of which are identified as future Development Consent Order applications. Relevant consideration will also be given to any planning applications within or adjacent the Order Limits, particularly any significant major planning application. Although stated in the applicant’s ‘Statement of Case and Green Belt Statement’, the following matters are not considered relevant to the Council’s consideration with this application: • Combined Heat and Power: It is explained in the applicant’s documentation that the use of Combined Heat and Power is unsuitable to provide heat to heat customers from gas engines as a peaking generation facility and is therefore unsuitable. The Council does not intend to contest this view. • Marine Environment: The applicant makes reference to considering the marine and hydrological environment within the Thames Estuary. This is considered as a relevant consideration for the relevant agencies (Environment Agency, MMO and PLA) that manage and use the marine environment but not considered a relevant consideration to the Council’s considerations as our jurisdiction only extends as far as the low water mark.”