Objection to planning proposal

 

Sent to East Northants Council last night.  See two previous blogs (and the well-informed comments on the second of them)(Local issue – Higham Ferrers and Rushden – Northants 30 September 2017; Not just a local issue, 5 October 2017).  Today is the closing date for comments (unless ENC decide yet again to change the closing date).

 

Planning case 17/01328/FUL Erection of 10 poultry buildings and associated infrastructure on land North East Of Westwood AD Plant Bedford Road Rushden Northamptonshire.

I object to this planning application on the following grounds:

  1. Insufficient consideration has been given to the impacts of this proposed development on species and sites of European Concern and therefore East Northants Council (ENC) cannot, with the information provided, legally determine this application. ENC must require the developer to carry out further work on this issue.
  2. The Phase 1 habitat survey does not meet professional guidelines and is not fit for purpose.
  3. The modelling of odour fails to take into account the fact that the chicken manure from the proposed development will be spread on the adjacent farmland and is therefore an underestimate of odour levels in the vicinity of the development. This work should be redone before impacts on local communities can be properly assessed.
  4. The modelling of ammonia emissions fails to take into account the fact that the chicken manure from the proposed development will be spread on the adjacent farmland and is therefore an underestimate of NH3 levels in the vicinity of the development and in particular affecting ancient woodlands and SSSIs. This work should be redone before ecological impacts of the development can be properly assessed.
  5. Standards of public consultation have been poor both in terms of publication of the proposed development and in the presentation of the relevant documents on the ENC website.
  6. The Transport Statement makes no mention of the requirement in the revised proposal to supply two boilers with straw bales. It is unclear whether this involves further road traffic and/or increased disturbance to wildlife on the farmland around the proposed site.

 

Issue 1: Insufficient consideration has been given to the impacts of this proposed development on species and sites of European Concern and therefore East Northants Council (ENC) cannot, with the information provided, legally determine this application. ENC must require the developer to carry out further work on this issue.

The relevant European priority species are Great Crested Newt, Dormouse and bats (all species) and the relevant site is the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area for birds where a species for which the site was designated is Golden Plover.

Great Crested Newt: this is a species which is certainly a potential occupant of this site and the surrounding area.  The survey work was insufficient to rule out the possibility that this species would be affected.  The Phase 1 Habitat Survey did not include a desk-based search of sources such as biological records centre data. This is an integral part of the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) (guidelines here: https://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/Technical_Guidance_Series/GPEA/GPEA_April_2013.pdf).  The consultants say that they followed the guidelines but they didn’t, as no desk-based search from the local biological records centre (BRC) was undertaken. The consultants’ report states that no desk study was commissioned which suggests that the developer decided not to spend money on this aspect of the ecological appraisal and, if that is the case, that decision should result in planning permission being refused and further information being required for the application to be reconsidered.

Dormouse: this is a species which is certainly a potential occupant of this site and the surrounding area.  There are two Ancient Woodland sites within 2km of the proposed development which would be potential sites for Dormice. The survey work was insufficient to rule out the possibility that this species inhabits or uses the hedgerows on site and that it would be affected.  The Phase 1 Habitat Survey did not include a desk-based search of sources such as biological records centre data. This is an integral part of the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) (guidelines here: https://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/Technical_Guidance_Series/GPEA/GPEA_April_2013.pdf).  The consultants say that they followed the guidelines but they didn’t, as no desk-based search from the local biological records centre (BRC) was undertaken. The consultants’ report states that no desk study was commissioned which suggests that the developer decided not to spend money on this aspect of the ecological appraisal and, if that is the case, that decision should result in planning permission being refused and further information being required for the application to be reconsidered.

Bats (all species):  my PhD was an ecological study of Pipistrelle Bats so this is a subject on which I have a small amount of rather distant expertise. The two Pedunculate Oaks mentioned in the survey sound like potential bat roosts to me as both are described as having fissures, holes, loose bark etc (all likely places to have bat roosts), yet the consultants conclude there is low likelihood, without any explanation or reference to appropriate guidelines.  This conclusion is unsafe on the basis of the rather cursory survey of the site and in the absence of a proper desk study.  In addition, the woodland at the southern edge of the site looks to me like an ideal sheltered feeding place for bats.

Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area for birds: this site is a matter of c7 km from the proposed development. Two of its qualifying species are Lapwing and Golden Plover (an Annex 1 species on the Wild Birds Directive) which winter in the Nene Valley in internationally important numbers. The Golden Plover and Lapwing do not spend all their time within the SPA boundary – indeed the Golden Plover mainly roost there and feed on farmland, often on open-landscape arable land precisely like that of the proposed development site and its surroundings.  The proposed development and its associated increased traffic within this farmland landscape would reduce the suitability of this site for feeding by these two species and thereby damage the integrity of the nearby SPA site.

The Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA Conservation Objectives Updated Advice document (see http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5495529882517504) states for Golden Plover ‘The site supports internationally [important] numbers of golden plover during the winter months and when the SPA was classified this represented 2.3% of the NW European population.’ and ‘Birds feed on the surrounding agricultural land often flying many kilometres to feed. It is not currently known where there (sic) preferred feeding grounds are and whether they remain faithful to specific fields or select fields based on crop type / food availability’. Natural England’s letter to ENC dated 27 July, refers ENC to these Conservation Objectives.

The proposed development site looks to me, with over 30 years experience of nature conservation and birdwatching, to be a very suitable feeding site for Golden Plover and Lapwing.  I do not know whether Golden Plover and/or Lapwing actually use this area, and, if so, how regularly, as I have only visited it once but similar areas of open farmland, and at similar distances from the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA, in the vicinity of Hargrave and Raunds, are certainly used by these species and I cannot see why this proposed site and its environs would not be too.

The survey work was insufficient to rule out the possibility that these species may regularly use the site and be affected – it was too brief and carried out at the wrong time of year.  The ecological assessment did not include a desk-based search of sources such as biological records centre data. In addition, for birds, the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Birdtrack system stores citizen science data which might be of relevance to this proposal but was not accessed.  Desk- based searches form an integral part of the CIEEM Guidelines for Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) (guidelines here: https://www.cieem.net/data/files/Resource_Library/Technical_Guidance_Series/GPEA/GPEA_April_2013.pdf).  The consultants say that they followed the guidelines but they didn’t, as no desk-based search from the local biological records centre (BRC) was undertaken. The consultants’ report states that no desk study was commissioned which suggests that the developer decided not to spend money on this aspect of the ecological appraisal and, if that is the case, that decision should result in planning permission being refused and further information being required for the application to be reconsidered.

Natural England’s comments on the proposal, dated 27 July advise ENC to seek further advice from Biological Records Centre and other sources on the biodiversity value of this site.

Issue 2: The Phase 1 habitat survey does not meet professional guidelines and is not fit for purpose.

One visit by one person on one rainy and windy day in September forms the basis for the ecological assessment of wildlife interest.  This is largely worthless.

For example, the ecological survey by the consultants found 9 species of bird. Yesterday, Sunday 8 October, I spent 20 minutes at the site and recorded 18 species of bird either using the site or on the immediately adjacent fields as follows: Red List – Skylark, Yellowhammer and Linnet; Amber List – Stock Dove, Dunnock, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull and Kestrel; Green List – Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jay, Blue Tit, Robin, Chaffinch and Greenfinch.  A rather random and casual 20 minutes of looking for birds doubled the bird list of the site and its immediate surroundings!

I also formed the strong impression that this site was well above average locally for farmland birds with the species I saw in a brief visit.  The general area is open and relatively undisturbed (it appeared to me – no other people seen on the rights of way on a sunny Sunday morning) and appeared eminently suitable as a feeding and roosting area for Lapwing and Golden Plover (see Issue 1 above) as well as for flocks of wintering thrushes, finches, buntings and sparrows. The presence of scores of feeding and loafing (ie just sitting around) gulls of three species on adjacent fields to the site suggest that the area is suitable for Golden Plover and Lapwing as those two species often feed alongside and in the same fields as gulls.

The consultants’ survey was carried out after the wild bird breeding season and therefore could not have detected Red-listed breeding birds such as Turtle Dove, Cuckoo or Yellow Wagtail – all of which are summer visitors and would be in Africa by the time the survey was conducted.  All three species are entirely possible breeding species for this site and are found locally in small numbers.  Other Red-list birds (resident species) for which the site provides suitable breeding habitat and suitable potential winter feeding habitat include Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Grey Partridge, Starling, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Linnet and Skylark. These would not have been detected as breeding species by the consultants because the survey was carried out too late in the year and nor would any important numbers of wintering birds been detected because these would be likely to occur later in the autumn or winter.

Similar shortcomings apply to the approach taken for identifying invertebrate species – on a rainy windy day in September!

This survey was carried out in sub-optimal weather conditions and at a time of year when few of the potential species of interest would be detectable even if they were abundant on the site at other times of year. In the absence of any desk study (see above) this visit forms the basis for determining that the site is of low ecological value and that conclusion is an unsafe one on which to base any planning decision. The absence of evidence for species being present on this site given the survey methods cannot be taken as evidence for absence of those species were proper surveys to be carried out.

Issue 3: The modelling of odour fails to take into account the fact that the chicken manure from the proposed development will be spread on the adjacent farmland and is therefore an underestimate of odour levels in the vicinity of the development.  This work should be redone before impacts on local communities can be assessed.

The proposal states that at the end of each cycle of rearing, the poultry sheds (all 10 of them in synchrony) would be cleaned out of poultry manure which would be taken ‘off site’ but it is clear that the manure would be spread on the adjacent farmland. No details of this are given.

The modelling of odour impacts only addresses the 10 poultry sheds as point sources of odour – not the spreading of the poultry manure on the adjacent farmland. Unless manure stops being smelly as soon as it leaves a shed, not my experience, then this approach underestimates the net effect of this development on local people. This information is inadequate for local people or ENC to assess the local impact of odour.  The developer should be required to address this glaring hole in the information they provide.

Issue 4: The modelling of ammonia emissions fails to take into account the fact that the chicken manure from the proposed development will be spread on the adjacent farmland and is therefore an underestimate of NH3 levels in the vicinity of the development and in particular affecting ancient woodlands and SSSIs.  This work should be redone before ecological impacts of the development can be properly assessed.

This is the same point as above but applying to NH3 rather than odour.  The critical load model needs to be re-run using the quantities and locations of chicken manure spread – it looks to me as though impacts on Ancient Woodlands and SSSIs are certain to increase.

ENC needs to be sure that chicken manure spread on the fields as a result of this development would not, in conjunction with the emissions modelled already, cause harm to sites of nature conservation importance including the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA.

Issue 5: Standards of public consultation have been poor both in terms of publication of the proposed development and in the presentation of the relevant documents on the ENC website.

The presentation of information on ENC planning website is confused and difficult to negotiate.  I cannot tell how much this is the fault of the Council and how much is the fault of the developer.

For example, the ‘Location Plan’ showing the site does not contain grid references or any names of roads that one can use to identify the site. The A6 is shown on the plan but not labelled.  This map is not labelled as a ‘Plan, Drawing or Image’ on the ENC website.

The most useful map is found in the Environment Agency’s comments from an email in late September which was only published on the ENC website on 4 October – two days before one of the many dates when comments were said to be closed.

ENC seems to rely on publishing information through the Nene Valley Newsletter – this is not delivered to all households and in particular is not delivered to the villages of Knotting, Knotting Green, Yelden, Melchbourne or Souldrop which, though in Bedfordshire, are materially affected by this development.

The Environmental Statement refers to Appendix 3 and Appendix 4 – there is nothing labelled on the ENC website as Appendix 3 or 4 and no document entitled Appendix 3 or 4 – throughout it is difficult to know whether one is looking at the right information or not.  This is a considerable barrier to public participation in the planning process and I echo the sharp words used by East Northants Community Services in their objection to this development.

Issue 6: The Transport Statement makes no mention of the requirement in the revised proposal to supply two boilers with straw bales. It is unclear whether this involves further road traffic and/or increased disturbance to wildlife on the farmland around the proposed site.

A straw-fuelled boiler will require very large amounts of straw which will be brought in from off the footprint of the development site – but no details are given.  Will supplies of straw be brought in by road?  If so, the transport assessment does not assess this impact. If not, then the supplies will all be made from within the wider farmed area – thus leading to increased disturbance to wildlife throughout the year. This has not been assessed in any place in this proposal.  The possibility of species of European Concern and the possibility of disturbance to species (especially Golden Plover but also wintering Lapwing) which are qualifying species for the nearby Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA mean that this further consequence of the development needs to be addressed.

 

 

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13 Replies to “Objection to planning proposal”

  1. there is enough cruelty in factory farming its time to stop the mistreatment of animals not promote it.

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  2. Mark, an excellent submission. I have no faith whatsoever in the current planning process or of councillors to fully understand the implications of what they are about to pass.
    As earlier comments (5th Oct) have pointed out, the councillors will be under pressure to pass this application since a refusal would be costly and bring about an appeal. That however should not stop them doing so.
    I wonder if the local Wildlife group or indeed, any other NGO have put in an objection to this?

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  3. An excellent submission (with apologies if that sounds in any way patronising - it's not intended to). Anyone unfamiliar with the planning system has in it a fantastic example of how to address the matter.

    Sad, but I repeat the comments I made 5 October:
    Planning system favours developers or projects such as this. If the planners reject the application then the applicant appeals. Great expense to local authority (public purse) so often reluctant to reject on cost grounds. If planners grant the application then the local community as objectors get no further say.

    The planning system IMHO needs serious review and reform. As does the subsidy system.

    As for the meat, no thanks. I'll do as others do shop from local traceable source, grow own etc.

    But, good luck to all. Community campaigns should be run and can be effective.

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    1. I agree with Nimby. And I particularly like the way you (Mark) have included a very simple refutation of the phase 1 habitat survey by spending a short time doing a bit of birding in the locality. Objecting to planning proposals can seem daunting to the lay person, and this is a practical thing that anyone with a little wildlife knowledge can do.

      One thing that is especially concerning to me is that nearly all of the habitat surveys I have seen - carried out by professional and nominally independent ecological consultancies - have similar gross errors in their findings. And - what a coincidence - they seem always to underestimate the probable impact of the development on the ecology of the site.

      I recall one proposal less than a mile from my home which included the construction of a major road alongside a stream used by Otters, and involving the canalisation of the stream using concrete culverts etc. The "independent" consultant concluded that this was likely to *enhance* the stream as an Otter habitat!

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  4. to me the planning it wants to be stopped before they destroy all the wildlife and the dung they put on the land will kill a lot of grasses plants

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  5. With regard to many types of development the planning system provides only very slender protection from adverse impacts on local communities. It is heavily weighted in favour of the applicants and even where an application has been rejected on appeal there is nothing to prevent the developer submitting multiple further plans. Whereas no one can appeal once permission has been granted without asking government to call in the plans. Good luck with this one! We need a complete overhaul of the system.

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    1. Local decisions blocked Macdonald and Premier Inn developments at Salisbury eastern gateway but this was overruled on appeal. For economic reasons Sainsbury have shelved plans for a supermarket west of the A36 so at least the guests of Premier Inn will have an uninterrupted view of the Sewage Treatment Works, and as a bonus they can spend hours looking at the traffic queue that CPRE ensured would have an enduring adverse impact on the local community.

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  6. Never cite the Great Crested Newt, it always alienates planners. I know a retired planning officer and they've told me that it is the most common planning objection ever. He told me it was rarer to read a planning objection which didn't cite it, and if even a quarter of the number cited existed then it would be the most common creature in Britain. As soon as he read that in a letter his eyes glazed over and he pretty much discounted everything else in the objection as equally fanciful.

    If you want an objection to be taken seriously then stick to things like infrastructure impacts and things that will cost the local authority money.

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    1. Random22

      I agree that great crested newts alienate planners but this underlies a specific issue related to the whole sector and that is, in the context of ecology, a lack of competent staff (ecologists) within local authorities (UK-wide). From a study dating back to 2004 and made reference to in this document - http://www.alge.org.uk/SiteAssets/publications-and-reports/ALGE%20Report%20on%20Impact%20of%20Spending%20Cuts%20(2011-12).pdf - only 35 % of local authorities had access to, or employed in-house, an ecologist. This figure is likely to be even more dire. However, the responsibilities to consider biodiversity in general, and European Protected Species (and sites) more specifically, have become (since 2004), more onerous and complicated (and urgent). Thus for 2 out of 3 local authorities, they are required to make decisions blind, without access to a competent individual who is sufficiently trained to understand when (if) an application is submitted that is either sub-standard, i.e. below best practice (but legally sound); or, potentially policy non-compliant or illegal. Responsibility rests on a planner, who may not have had any experience or training; and thus just relies on the ecology report (if there is one) and makes the assumption that it is fit for purpose. This excludes those ecologists in local authorities who have to prioritise their workload and thus may devote time to more detailed or complex applications.

      Thus, the retired planning officer you refer to may well have become alienated by great crested newts, but this may be more due to frustration in not fully understanding the implications.

      On the contrary, the potential presence of a European Protected Species is a material matter for the local planning authority; Mark has raised an intelligent and robust objection which they are legally obliged to consider. If they don't, and grant permission, they seriously risk having their decision being challenged, which could equally cost the tax payer.

      Ii East Northants Council does not employ an ecologist, but it would appear from this website http://alge.org.uk/members/info/members.php?authority=Northamptonshire%20County%20Council that Northamptonshire CC does; so they have access to one (I assume), then the issues raised by Mark may well, and perhaps should have been, resolved much earlier in the proceedings. This could have created the opportunity to require/ request biodiversity gain - for example, some suitably worded condition requiring the applicant to manage field margins for the benefit of farmland bird assemblages in particular and turtle dove specifically in accordance with ENC's own Biodiversity Supplementary Planning Document (see https://www.east-northamptonshire.gov.uk/downloads/file/9058/biodiversity_spd_for_northamptonshire); issued in August 2015.

      Richard

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  7. As Random22 infers, follow the money and provide examples where the cost (direct and possibly indirect) will have a negative impact. If it is contra to the LAs policies then at least in theory they should weight against applicants.

    But, in my experience, the developers will almost certainly have already had numerous behind closed door meetings with the LAs. If it's a site with nature conservation interest or there is one nearby then they will probably have gone through Natural England's DAS process. There are 'good' officers on the ground but consequential of centralisation a lot of quality data and knowledge etc. is missed (deliberately or otherwise).

    Another tactic favoured by Govt & developers is the carrot aka community pot.

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  8. all of the above make sense.
    Assuming that the presence of a local authority ecologist will be enough is, sadly not proven. For example, my local authority uses the local wildlife trust for advice. sadly, the adviser is unaware of many nuances of survey methods and presentation. Like here, in a recent case the consultant claimed CIEEM compliance. They broke CIEEM code of conduct rules, used NBN data directly (a CIEEM disciplinary issue) and failed to provide methods, data, maps, times (much like here) and a few more problems. They then pre-consulted with the Trust (where the Trust were the local authority's advisors) before producing their report. The Trust was unaware of a number of problems, defended themselves against the critique, and provided advice when the work was unsuited and made claims for bats that were unsubstantiated. In short a stitch up. The council is accepting the unacceptable

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  9. Ref your comment no 4.The modelling of ammonia emissions fails to take into account the fact that the chicken manure from the proposed development will be spread on the adjacent farmland and is therefore an underestimate of NH3 levels in the vicinity of the development and in particular affecting ancient woodlands and SSSIs.

    I went round a modern poultry rearing unit on Open Farm Sunday and the waste just composted away in situ releasing Nitrogen not Ammonia. There was no smell of ammonia, or anything much.
    I specifically asked how they cleared it out as the way it was set up (drinkers etc) did not make sense if you were going to go in every batch to clear it out.

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