Expert witness work at the Anglia Square development’s public inquiry

05 March 2021

In 2020, Aether’s Melanie Hobson provided expert witness work on behalf of Weston Homes work for the public inquiry into the application for planning permission for the proposed Anglia Square development in Norwich.  

The application was made by Weston Homes Plc and Columbia Threadneedle for planning permission for the comprehensive re-development of Anglia Square and adjacent land on Edward Street in Norwich. The proposal consisted of the demolition of existing buildings including shops, offices and a public multistorey car park, with construction of up to 1,250 dwellings, hotel, ground floor retail and commercial floor space, cinema, multi-storey car parks for shoppers and residents, place of worship and associated highway and public realm areas.  

The Inspector recommended that the application be approved, and planning permission granted. However, the Secretary of State disagreed with some of the Inspector’s conclusions relating in particular to the impact on heritage assets and refused planning permission. The Secretary of State did however agree with the Inspector that in view of the Air Quality Assessment findings and conclusions, air quality was not a matter that weighed against the granting of planning permission.  

For example, one aspect considered was that the Air Quality Assessment undertaken by Aether included two modelling scenarios which considered expected improvements in air pollutant emissions from the road vehicle fleet. These were: 

  1. A scenario utilising Defra’s Version 9 of the emission factor toolkit (EFT v9), which takes into account the latest assumptions on vehicle emission standards in line with the DfT and National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory’s projections, and 
  2. A CURED v3A scenario, which is based on a tool produced by Air Quality Consultants Ltd, in which no improvement in the NOx emissions from diesel cars are anticipated.  

Paragraph 557 of the Anglia Square Inspector’s Report states:  

“At the inquiry there was discussion as to whether, in principle, it is right to take account of anticipated improvements in air quality as a result of government policy. Although the Council did not take account of such improvements at the time it considered the application, it now considers that it is right to do so. I agree. The EFT User Guide 2019 [version 9], which is published by Defra states that: ‘It is a tool that allows users to calculate road vehicle pollutant emission rates for oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter for a specified year, road type, vehicle speed and vehicle fleet composition’. To my mind that that makes it clear that Defra is expecting anticipated changes in vehicle emissions to be factored in to assessments such as this. The Wealden Local Plan examination, where the Inspector commented that it would be unreasonable to assume no improvements over time, is an example of this approach in action.” 

In addition, many other useful comments were made by the Planning Inspector, which will influence how air quality impacts and exposure are taken into account in housing developments elsewhere in the UK.  

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