Introduction

Brighton & Hove City Council

Decision Required Under Delegated Procedure

Date: 19 November 2020

Report to: Jane Moseley, Planning Manager, East

Case Officer: Chris Swain, Team Leader, Major Applications Development Management

Subject: Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Opinion

Wards affected: East Brighton

1. Purpose of the report

1.1 To provide a formal Scoping Opinion in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 (as amended) (the EIA Regulations), as to the scope and extent of the information to be provided in the Environmental Statement for the development of the former Brighton Gas Works, Marina Way, Brighton.

1.2 This Scoping Opinion is issued is in accordance with the EIA Regulations and is required following a formal scoping request made by Quod for developers St William Homes LLP on 14 July 2020. An extension of time to issue the Scoping Opinion was agreed by the applicant and the LPA until 20 November 2020.

1.3 The aim of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is to protect the environment by ensuring that a local planning authority, when deciding whether to grant planning permission for a project, which is likely to have significant effects on the environment, does so in the full knowledge of the likely significant effects, and takes this into account in the decision making process. The EIA Regulations set out a procedure for identifying those projects which should be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, and for assessing, consulting and coming to a decision on those projects which are likely to have significant environmental effects.

2. Information/background

2.1 The site is a former gasworks and is located approximately 2.5km to the east of the Brighton City centre. The maximum extent of the site would be 2.02 hectares in total. The site is located immediately to the north of the A259 coastal road and flanked by Marina Way to the east. To the north is Roedean Road, whilst to the west is Boundary Road which separates the site from the Bell Tower Industrial Estate and a residential terrace.

2.2 The north eastern part of the Site is occupied by two gas holders, which are now redundant and have been purged of gas and isolated. One gas holder frame remains. Directly south of the gas holders, there is operational gas equipment across several small buildings. Below ground, low, medium and high-pressure gas mains cross the Site.

The wider Site comprises largely hardstanding/bare ground occupied for short-term uses mostly associated with vehicle parking, storage and maintenance. In the centre of the Site is a warehouse style building used in association with these uses. There are some areas of scrub and emerging vegetation on the Site.

2.3 The Scoping Report (SR) accompanying the request for a Scoping Opinion has identified all relevant constraints to the site and these are clearly set out in the Appendices. Key constraints include the South Downs National Park some 70m to the north east, the East Cliff and Kemp Town Conservation Areas some 100m to the west of the site, the Grade II listed Kemp Town Enclosures Registered Park and Garden some 250m to the west, a number of listed and locally listed buildings, including the Grade I listed Sussex Square some 170m to the west, and the Brighton to Newhaven Cliffs SSSI beyond Marine Drive some 50m south.

2.4 The site has been allocated for a mixed used development in the Brighton and Hove City Plan Part One. Policy DA2 strategically allocates the site for a minimum of 50 residential units and 2000sqm of employment space.

2.5 It is proposed that full planning permission would be sought for the development and would comprise:

  • demolition of existing buildings and structures;
  • enabling works including but not limited to: ground remediation and decontamination; removal of below ground obstructions; consolidation of existing gas equipment including erection of a new Pressure Reduction Station (PRS)1 compound;
  • construction of:
    • up to 700 new dwellings and ancillary residential floorspace – this may be set out in the
    • planning application by a number of homes or equivalent GEA figure;
    • circa 2,000sqm non-residential floorspace (use classes B1, A1-A4 and/or D1);
    • new public open space, and semi-private and private residential open space;
    • car and cycle storage predominately within podium(s);
    • pedestrian, car and cycle and access and circulation works;
    • landscape and public realm works; and
  • associated infrastructure and interim works,

2.6 Whilst proposed building heights have not been finalised as of yet, they are likely to vary between 4 and 17 storeys.

2.7 The applicant has not submitted a Screening Request as they consider the project to be EIA, but it is still necessary for the LPA to reach their own conclusion on whether the project is EIA.

2.8 In this case, the proposals do not constitute Schedule 1 development as defined by the EIA Regulations. The proposals do, however, exceed the threshold for category 10(b) of Schedule 2 to the EIA Regulations relating to ‘urban development projects’ as the development exceeds the 150 dwelling threshold, so there is a need to consider whether there is a potential for significant environmental effects. The Annex to PPG: EIA notes that for this category, EIA is unlikely to be required unless the new development is on a “significantly greater scale than the previous use, or the types of impact are of a markedly different nature, or there is a high level of contamination”. All of these criteria are considered to apply to the present development as it would be of a significantly greater physical scale than the existing use, would potentially result in more noise, disturbance and emissions, and the site is contaminated. It is therefore considered that the proposal constitutes EIA development.

2.9 To assist the Local Planning Authority’s deliberations on its scoping opinion, a Scoping Report (SR) has been submitted outlining the issues to be considered in the Environmental Statement (ES).

3. Approach to EIA

3.1 The SR sets out that the ES will be prepared in accordance with the EIA Regulations and reference will be made to current EIA good practice guidance.

3.2 Every ES must also contain all of the information set out in Part 2 of Schedule 4 to the EIA Regulations, along with such information from Part 1 as is reasonably required to assess the effects of the project. The ES should therefore contain, as a minimum:

  • a full description of the development
  • measures to avoid/reduce/remedy significant adverse effects
  • data to identify and assess the main environmental effects
  • an outline of the main alternatives and reasons for the choice made; and
  • a non-technical summary

3.3 As set out in Part 1 of Schedule 4, the ES should include, as relevant, a description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the development, as confirmed in the following; a description of the likely significant effects on the environment resulting from the development and the methodology used to predict them; and a description of proposed mitigation measures.

3.4 The SR notes that a single ES is proposed to accompany the planning application(s). The assessment of likely significant effects in the ES will set out the potential effects associated with the demolition and remediation works, construction works and once the Development is completed and operational.

3.5 However, whilst paragraph 4.21 of the SR relates solely to the ‘completed development assessment’ for all topics and relates to the anticipated year of full completion it is likely that this could be a longer-term phased delivery, as such the construction impacts (considered in Paras 4.17-4.20) should take into account the phasing of the development, and any cumulative impacts of demolition alongside construction and the potential operation/occupation of parts of the site.

3.6 As noted in the SR, the effects considered could be both beneficial and adverse and deemed to be ‘significant’ on the basis of:

  • the value/importance of the resources and receptors that could be affected
  • the predicted magnitude of environmental change and/or impact experienced by these resources and receptors, accounting for their size, duration and spatial extent
  • the susceptibility or sensitivity of resources/receptors; and
  • options for avoiding, reducing, offsetting or compensating for any potentially significant adverse effects and the likely effectiveness of such mitigation measures

Consideration of issues/content

4.1 The submitted SR sets out the topic areas that are to be scoped into the ES. It is agreed that the following topics should be assessed in the EIA:

  • Socio-Economic Impacts
  • Transport
  • Air Quality and Odour
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Daylight, Sunlight and Overshadowing
  • Ground Conditions and Contamination
  • Townscape, Heritage and Visual Impacts

4.2 Additional topics should also be included, namely:

Biodiversity

It is considered that given the absence of information to the contrary, the development has the potential for significant effects on biodiversity so this topic should be scoped into inclusion in the EIA, particularly given the presence of a SSSI in close proximity to the site, along with other nature designations within 2km. As noted in the SR, air quality modelling may identify potential significant effects on ecological designations within 2km of the Site, and within 200m of the road network or if bat roosts are discovered through relevant survey work.

Natural England has also sought the inclusion of a biodiversity chapter in the ES. There is the potential for habitat and species identified in future surveys to be significantly affected by, in particular, the noise emissions and emissions to air resulting from the development so this should be quantified in the EIA. An ecological impact assessment (EcIA) should be undertaken following the second edition of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management’s (CIEEM) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the UK 2019, with the results feeding into the ES.

Water Resources, Flood Risk and Surface Water Drainage

The SR has been assessed by the Local Lead Flood Authority who have set out that there is a risk of surface water flooding to the site and that this topic should be scoped into the ES. A Flood Risk Assessment is to be submitted with the planning application and the results of this assessment could feed into the ES.

In-Combination Effects 

The in-combination effects of impacts on identified receptors should be considered, either in each chapter, or as a separate chapter in the ES. This takes into account the potential for increased impacts of, for example, noise impacts alongside air emissions and contamination on a sensitive receptor such as protected habitat.

4.3 It is agreed that the following topics do not have the potential for significant effects so can be scoped out of the ES, though it should be noted they may need to be considered in the information submitted with the planning application:

Archaeology

The County Archaeologist has assessed the SR in conjunction with Appendix E and agrees that archaeology can be scoped out of the ES as there would be no significant effects, though details should be provided in the planning application.

Human Health

As set out below, details of impacts on human health should be set out in the Socio Economic Impacts chapter, informed by a Health Impact Assessment.

Sustainability

It will be expected that considerations of Energy and Sustainability will run through the overall design approach with specific details covered within a Sustainability Statement in accordance with relevant policies in CPP1. It is not considered there is the potential for ‘significant effects’ within the meaning of the EIA Regulations so this can be assessed as part of the information submitted with the planning application.

It is agreed that the project would not have significant impacts in relation to:

  • waste
  • climate change and greenhouse gas emissions 
  • vulnerability to major accidents or disasters
  • light pollution
  • solar glare
  • telecommunications
  • electromagnetic fields

so these can be scoped out of the EIA.

4.4 This section shall consider each of the topic areas in the submitted SR in turn and consider the baseline conditions identified, the scoping surveys taken, the approach and methodology proposed and the potential environmental impacts and likely effects of the development. Consideration will be given to the extent and final content of the ES.

4.5 The views of expert internal and external consultees have been sought to inform consideration of the SR and thus the content of the ES.

4.6 Socio-Economic Impacts:

4.7 The approach as set out in the SR is considered broadly acceptable.

4.8 Given the impact of Covid-19, the approach to establishing the baseline conditions should be carefully considered and justified, in terms of using 2020 statistics for claimant count and healthcare services data (SR paragraph 5.4).

4.9 The benefits of the delivery of housing (paragraph 5.11) should be realistic in terms of delivery timescales. It should take into account both housing policy targets and whether the site would deliver short term housing (which is the big issue for the city at the moment), or longer term, with reference to the five year housing supply figures.

4.10 It is however noted though that ‘human health’ has been scoped out of this section. The applicant is advised that a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is required to be submitted as part of the planning application, and should inform this chapter of the ES.

4.11 The Public Health Team have been consulted for their views and the response is attached.
4.12 The following recommendations are set out:

  • Refer to the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment & B&HCC Health and Wellbeing Strategy
  • Undertake an HIA (for the Planning Application).
  • Use data from Community Insight Use data from Community Insight where you can find specific information on the Rottingdean Coastal Ward

4.13 Transport:

4.14 The SR sets out the approach in respect of transport issues and the potential significant effects that may occur. While the general approach is agreed a number of additional points should be considered.

4.15 The Local Highway Authority (LHA) has been consulted for their views and their response has been made available.

4.16 The spatial scope of the assessment should be agreed with the LHA through the preparation of the Transport Assessment (TA) to be submitted as part of the planning application.

4.17 The results of the TA should feed into the Transport chapter of the ES. The LHA set out that, ‘Para 6.6 refers to the proposed means of obtaining traffic survey data given possible restrictions that Covid-19 may place on the ability to obtain new data. The authors are advised that fully representative data will be necessary.

Whilst we will consider alternative means of manufacturing this from pre-existing data, should we not be satisfied that these are robust then assessment may need to be delayed until new surveys and assessments can be carried out. Survey and assessment data from previous schemes may be admissible where it is not older than 2 years and where it can be positively demonstrated to our satisfaction that no significant changes have since occurred that might impact its representativeness’. It suggested that full representative data is required for the TA, the results of which feed into the ES.

4.18 Para.6.8 of the SR discusses the means of generating traffic flows once the site is in use. This will need to be agreed separately through the TA process.

4.19 The LHA sets out that, ‘for the purposes of the ES Transport Chapter, daily traffic flows and component HGV flows / percentages should be presented for a 16-hour period (0600-2200). Additionally, 18 and 24-hour flows and component LDV/HDV flows / percentages should be presented for potential use in Noise and Air Quality chapters, along with those for any other specific periods that Noise and Air Quality Officers may advise in their separate responses to this scoping proposal. Special care should be taken to ensure that the methodologies used for manufacturing and distributing/assigning
flows (and related data, calculations and diagrams to evidence these) are provided. This is particularly important if the component Transport Assessment considers merely peak hour flows and if the study area for TA purposes differs from that used in the ES Transport, Noise and Air Quality chapters respectively.’

4.20 Para 6.10 discusses the sensitivity of different routes for assessment screening purposes. A framework to categorise the sensitivity of routes should be agreed in advance with the LHA.

4.21 Assessment of vehicle delay and impacts on junctions, lanes etc will likely require suitable traffic modelling. The specific details should be agreed through the scoping of the TA – the results of the fully representative data should feed into the ES.

4.22 Air Quality and Odour:

4.23 The Air Quality Officer is in general agreement with the approach and methodology set out in the SR, including references to national guidance and the inclusion of a detailed air quality assessment where HGV and light vehicle thresholds are exceeded.

4.24 However, the following points have been made, and should be included in the ES:

  • IT is important that impacts on the AQMAs approved by September’s B&HCC Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee are assessed, taking into account traffic generation estimates, as agreed with the Local Highway Authority. The contributions of development traffic emissions to all six AQMAs will need to be assessed or screened out. NO2 contribution development + cumulative to all AQMAs should be included
  • Local automatic traffic counts (ATCs annual averages) can be found in the 2019 ASR. AQ information is also published in the 2020 ASR
  • Emission costs calculator should use 25 kph for the city centre – this can guide costs for mitigation as required
  • The emissions factor toolkit should not automatically assume improvements after 2019

4.25 Given site contamination issues, there is the potential that the identified dust nuisance and surface soiling could include contaminated material, if mitigation measures are not included. This should be taken into account and addressed in the assessment.
4.26 Given the Site’s contamination issues, there is the potential for the release gases and odours. This should be taken into account and addressed in the assessment

4.27 Given the likely phasing of the development, the cumulative impact on air quality of both construction and operational (i.e. occupied) activities should also be considered. As a related point, the potential for there to be impacts on new ‘sensitive receptors’ within the site should be considered, if new residents are in situ while construction is ongoing.

4.28 Noise and Vibration:

4.29 The council’s Environmental Health Team have been consulted are satisfied with the approach and the methodology set out in the SR. Given the proximity of sensitive receptors, primarily residential properties, quantifying noise and vibration impacts and identifying appropriate mitigation measures are likely to be key to the acceptability of the project in terms of environmental impact

4.30 If piling and/or other activities with particular significant noise/vibration impacts are to take place, a ‘worst case scenario’ should be set out in terms of likely timescales (i.e. number of days, number of hours/day) so that the acceptability of this can be determined.

4.31 Given the likely phasing of the development, the cumulative impact on the noise environment of both construction and operational (i.e. occupied) activities should also be considered. As a related point, the potential for there to be impacts on new ‘sensitive receptors’ within the site should be considered, if new residents are in situ while construction is ongoing.

4.32 Wind Microclimate

4.33 The proposed approach is to assess the microclimate around and within the site using the Lawson Comfort and Safety Criteria. The approach, scope and methodology are considered acceptable.

4.34 Daylight, Sunlight and Overshadowing

4.35 The proposal has the potential to impact on neighbouring properties in respect of daylight, sunlight and overshadowing.

4.36 The proposed chapter in the ES would follow the methodology set out in the latest BRE guidelines and this is supported. The assessment will be carried out in both the baseline and development scenario, so the magnitude of impact can be quantified, and the significance of effect can be assessed.

4.37 It is also agreed that impacts within the site on overshadowing (sun on the ground) and the sunlight / daylighting internally within the proposed buildings can be assessed as part of the planning application and not the ES.

4.38 Ground Conditions and Contamination:

4.39 Due to the former use as a gas works this will be a key topic in the ES and there will be significant public interest in the assessment, especially in respect of any impact on potential contamination on human health.

4.40 The council’s Environmental Health Team have been consulted and are satisfied with the proposed approach and methodology.

4.41 The response from the Health and Safety Executive should be taken into account, particularly the need to consider the Major Hazard Site (H1581): Transco, Black Rock Holder Station.

4.42 The response from the Environment Agency should be taken into account, particularly the need to consider the long term, possibility permanent impacts of the site’s contamination, rather than concluding that they are temporary, given the possibility of mobilisation into the aquifer if not properly mitigated.

4.43 In this regard, the impact of piling should be taken into account, and the potential to mobilise contamination into the underlying chalk aquifer.

4.44 The Environment Agency highlights the requirement for further investigation, monitoring and assessment if redevelopment is proposed, as set out in paragraph 11.10 of the SR, because ”while baseline groundwater conditions have been previously characterised, it is not clear if all potential on site sources have been thoroughly and robustly investigated. Previous investigation may have been limited by factors such as access to all area of the site, or scope of investigation. As such additional site characterisation, investigations and remediation may be required.”. This detail should be included in the ES.

4.45 Townscape, Landscape, Heritage and Visual Impact Assessment

4.46 It is considered that the specific constraints of the site have been adequately identified in respects of townscape, heritage and landscape. The site is close to both the Kemp Town and East Cliff Conservation Areas and there are a significant number of listed and locally listed buildings in relatively close proximity to the site. The South Downs National Park is immediately to the north east of the site.

4.47 Appendix D sets out a list of Townscape Viewpoints including both short distance and long distance views and identifies the key constraints.
4.48 Comments on the SR have been sought from the County Landscape Architect, the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) and the council Heritage Team.

4.49 The County Landscape Architect has confirmed that the proposal to base the methodology for townscape and visual assessment on Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Assessment (Version 3) will be acceptable. They also suggest one further viewpoint that could be included for assessment which is the trig point at Red Hill to the east of the site grid reference 345039.

4.50 The SDNPA are satisfied with the approach taken and have also suggested a further viewpoint from Red Hill and a viewpoint from out to sea looking back towards the site.

4.51 The Heritage Team are satisfied with the scope and methodology of the SR and the constraints that have been identified. They have also asked that the historic wall along the western edge of the site be considered an undesignated heritage asset and added to the list of assets in paragraph 12.7 of the document, due to its origins as the wall defining the boundaries Brighton and Rottingdean.

4.52 Natural England has set out that the ES should consider the effects on the SDNP, local landscapes and heritage landscapes. The EIA should include assessments of visual effects on the surrounding area and landscape together with any physical effects of the development, such as changes in topography.

4.53 Overall it is considered that the approach to this chapter is acceptable. The Red Hill view should be included in the candidate view study. Furthermore, it is considered that a close-up view from the south would be helpful on Boundary Road at the junction with De Courcel Road. This view would show the rear of Boundary Road in context with the proposed development.

4.54 Cumulative impact:

4.55 The cumulative impacts of the proposal together with committed developments in the locality that are at an advanced stage (such as those with extant planning permissions), or that are likely to come forward in the next 3 years, should be assessed and included in the ES, in particular with regard to traffic and transport considerations.

4.56 The list of relevant developments in Appendix A is agreed. It is noted that the Brighton Marina proposals (BH2019/00964) are currently still under consideration. It is advised that the scheme for 853 units at the Brighton Marina, originally approved under BH2006/01124 and then varied under a number of s73 applications should also be considered.
4.57 Any further significant schemes for which an application has been submitted during the preparation of the EIA, and any new allocated sites should be considered as well as any relevant and committed major highway schemes which will be brought forward within the assessment period.

As noted above, the cumulative impact of the construction and operational phases should also be considered in relation to each of the impacts considered.

Summary

5.1 In summary, the proposed content of the ES is broadly considered acceptable as set out in the SR. There are, however, a number of additional potentially significant impacts / topics that need to be assessed and included within the ES as identified in section 4.

5.2 In addition to the above, all responses from consultees forwarded to you directly should be reviewed.