PEEL HALL, NOISE AND AIR QUALITY ASSESSMENTS FOR MAJOR PLANNING APPLICATION
Our client submitted a planning application for a new residential neighbourhood, including a care home, a local centre, food store, family restaurant/public house, primary school and sports pitches at Peel Hall, Warrington. Off-site operational mitigation measures included improvements to roundabouts and junctions; on-site operational mitigation measures included a travel plan, infrastructure to promote sustainable modes of transport, and provision of bus services within the proposed development.
The application was refused by the local authority. Our client appealed against that decision and a public local inquiry was held in 2018. The appeal, where noise and air quality evidence was provided by others, was dismissed. However, our client challenged that decision in the High Court and the decision was quashed in October 2020. The Secretary of State required that a new inquiry be held because there may have been significant material changes in circumstances, fact or policy since his decision in December 2018. We were appointed to undertake new air quality and noise assessments and to provide expert evidence to that new inquiry.
The development is adjacent to the M62 motorway and close to other heavily trafficked roads and thus the site could be affected by noise and by poor air quality. In addition, the scale of the development meant that there was potential for the development to create adverse impacts on existing residents close to the development. The effect of the proposed development on the following areas were considered as part of the enquiry:
• the noise environment both within the site and in the surrounding area; and
• on local air quality.
A detailed noise assessment was undertaken, which included noise monitoring across the site to determine the existing noise levels from sources such as the motorway and existing commercial uses. A computer model was built to enable the existing noise sources across the site to be modelled to predict the likely noise levels at the proposed residential development and define the noise mitigation required for the site. The noise model was also used to determine the impact of the road traffic noise from the development on nearby existing residential users.
The assessment concluded that, with suitable noise mitigation, the site was suitable for residential use. The impact of the development on the existing noise sensitive properties was determined to be not significant.
Consultation was carried out with the local authority and it became clear that to verify any air quality model to their satisfaction, monitoring of levels of nitrogen dioxide within and around the development site would be needed. Monitoring was completed over a twelve-month period and, during this time, an air quality model was developed.
The air quality model was used to predict the potential impact of emissions from road traffic associated with the proposed development on local air quality and an assessment of their significance was undertaken. Our assessment concluded that there would be no significant impact on local air quality as a result of the development and that the site is suitable for residential development, with appropriate design.
The new inquiry opened in September 2021 and the Save Peel Hall Campaign Group was granted Rule 6 status and took a full part in the inquiry proceedings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inquiry was held on-line and our team provided oral evidence virtually. The local authority agreed that, subject to the imposition of appropriate planning conditions, there are no air quality or noise reasons for refusing the appeal scheme and thus did not offer any evidence to the inquiry regarding noise or air quality. However, our team withstood extensive cross-examination by the Rule 6 party and the Planning Inspector during the appeal.
The Inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed. The Secretary of State agreed, the appeal was allowed, and planning permission was granted.
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