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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

£650 million Nottingham Island site could be delayed over flood risk fears

Planning permission was granted for the first part of the huge mixed-use development in September, on the condition that agreement be reached over flooding concerns.

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Worries over the potential for flooding on the Boots Island Site development and elsewhere are causing a ‘significant risk of delays’, planning bosses have said.

The Environment Agency has formally objected to the scheme’s flood risk assessment, and talks are ongoing between the directors of the agency and directors at Nottingham City Council to find a resolution.

Now, Nottingham City Council has said it could refer the matter to the Secretary of State, if the issue is not resolved.

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Planning permission was granted for the first part of the huge mixed-use development in September, on the condition that agreement be reached over flooding concerns.

The project will include new homes, office space, retail units, a five-star hotel, a ‘linear’ park and student accommodation.

Developers hope the first phase of the development, called Canal Turn – which includes a three-storey pavilion featuring two restaurants, events space and a large rooftop terrace – will be ready to open by Christmas 2021.

However this time frame is now in doubt due to the objection.

The Environment Agency says in its current state the application could ‘increase the flood risk to others.’

Yesterday (Wednesday, November 18), an urgent item was brought to Nottingham City Council’s Planning Committee – a relatively unusual move.

It asked for permission to allow city council planning bosses to grant planning permission even if the Environment Agency does not withdraw its objection, without the matter having to come back to the committee.

It also sought permission to involve the Secretary of State in order to do this, should it be required.

Under the rules, major planning applications like the Island Site can be approved even when the Environment Agency objects, but only with consent from the Secretary of State.

The urgent item was approved unanimously by councillors on the committee.

The council report states: “The outstanding Environment Agency objection is now placing the applicant’s programme for the implementation of this major and significant first phase of development at significant risk of being delayed.

“In the event that the Environment Agency subsequently maintains their objection to the proposed development then the development may be delayed further.

“With the resolution as it stands, any Environment Agency objection to the development, however minor, would require referral back to the planning committee for a decision and the process for referral to the Secretary of State could not begin until after the committee’s decision.

“Since the December committee would be the earliest meeting at which a committee decision could be taken, this would mean that a decision following referral to the Secretary of State could not be issued until January at the earliest.

“In this case, the public benefits of the development, in terms of jobs and other economic benefits, at a crucial time for the city, are considered to be at significant risk from any delay.”

The Environment Agency’s response to the application states: “In the (planning) application’s current state the Environment Agency would advise (Nottingham City Council) to refuse the granting of planning permission to the proposed development.

“This is because the Flood Risk Assessment is considered inadequate as it doesn’t assess all sources of flood risk to the site and others.

“We are also objecting due to the potential of the proposed development to increase the flood risk to others.

“As such, the development would be unable to meet the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework.

“The Flood Risk Assessment must ensure all sources of flood risk to the development and to others has been adequately assessed, this includes residual risk and extreme events.”

Paul Seddon is the director of planning and regeneration at Nottingham City Council, and told the meeting yesterday: “Work is ongoing on the flood modelling. It’s not yet entirely resolved. It is now at director level both with the Environment Agency and with the city council to try to seek a resolution.

“But I have to say it may be the case that a residual risk may remain.

Sir Robert McAlpine

“The developer is at a very critical stage with the contract to build phase 1a (Canal Turn).

“To try to help assist with that, and the delivery, which a good planning authority should be about, there is a need for urgency around decision making.

“What that means in practical terms, is that it’s a very tight timescale for the developer to sign the construction contract, so they can deliver phase 1a for a Christmas 2021 opening.

“If that tight timescale cannot be achieved, then at least a year is likely to be lost in terms of kick starting this very important regeneration.

“It is a very important scheme. It is on a site that has waited far too long to start, vitally important for the local economy, and I think increasingly important coming out of COVID and whatever economic situation we find ourselves in.

“I would say this is not about accepting any unreasonable risk to Nottingham citizens, that’s not what we’re proposing, but it would help us with a better chance to resolve the procedural technical matters around the flood modelling.”

The Island Quarter Nottingham

Robert Ware, from developers Conygar, said: “Conygar and Nottingham City Council are in ongoing discussions with the Environment Agency.

“These discussions are part of normal practice relating to developments of this size.”

The Environment Agency has been approached for comment.