Draft North East Cambridge Area Action Plan

Representation ID: 56012

Received: 05/10/2020

Respondent: Endurance Estates

Agent: Barton Willmore

Representation Summary:

General comment on overall approach to SA and SEA in defining the project/implementation of the plan:

Chapter 4 of the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) considers the reasonable alternatives for the project and at paragraph 4.3 acknowledges that all options necessitate the relocation of the wastewater treatment works (WwTW) and the AAP has been prepared with the assumption that the WwTW will be relocated.

The Environmental (Assessment of Plans and Programmes) Regulations 2004 make clear that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) should identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment in respect of implementing the plan and all reasonable alternatives. The site of relocation for the WwTW is yet to be determined and the SA/SEA defers assessment of its environmental effects to the Development Consent Order (DCO) process. However, we would question the robustness of this approach given the relocation of the WwTW forms an intrinsic part of the current development proposals for North East Cambridge (NEC) and therefore implementing the plan in its current form. The Draft NECAAP cannot be implemented as currently proposed without the relocation of the WwTW and all options presented in the SA/SEA require its relocation; hence, the environmental effects of the relocation should be assessed.

There was previously a scenario which included an on-site ‘bio-bubble’ as part of the NEC development, as an alternative to finding an off-site relocation site for the WwTW. However, we cannot find any evidence of this scenario being assessed in the SA, or a clear rationale for why this option has now been discounted. We also note that Anglian Water is recently quoted as stating that the “relocation project is not an operational necessity” (https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/moving-sewage-plant-could-devastating-18842331). We are of the view that the on-site reconfiguration and upgrading of the WwTW is a reasonable alternative (on the basis that it is considered that this could attain the Councils’ policy objectives) which should therefore be assessed through the SA/SEA process and in any event rationale should be given for why this previously considered alternative has apparently been discounted.

The issue of the WwTW assessment was raised within the Environment Agency’s response to the consultation on the Interim SA for the NECAAP Issues and Options (2019), where it gave the following advice:

“This [the WwTW] is most likely to be the biggest direct and indirect water impact of all, and is a highly significant impact in any event, pre-mitigation. Our advice is very clearly that the impact of relocation is potentially highly significant, and that it falls to be appraised as an impact arising from the plan. It also features cumulative effects with other projects, such as Waterbeach New Town, The SEA/SA should address this.”

In response to this, the current draft SA/SEA says that relocation options will be considered through the DCO process and that the SA covers the context of the WwTW’s relocation and the mechanism by which the effects of the relocation will be assessed.

At the most basic level, Regulation 12 of the 2004 Regulations require the SEA to consider the likely significant effects on the environment resulting from the implementation of the plan or project. The implementation of the current draft NECAAP necessarily involves, at some stage, the relocation of the WwTW, as it actively plans to develop land on which it is currently located rather than considering any option to develop around a reconfigured WwTW site. We note a difference in approach to the relocation of the WwTW when compared with the off-site relocation of the Veolia Waste Transfer Station. At paragraph 4.334 of the SA it is stated that, as the relocation site is outside of the AAP boundary and no relation is known then uncertainty is added to the scoring in the assessment. We also question why the Councils have departed from the position that was taken in the November 2014 Interim Sustainability Appraisal report (paragraph 4.3.6, page 37), which stated that the impacts of the relocation on sustainability objectives were uncertain – as it would depend on the location and nature of the site, with potential indirect and cumulative effects needing to be considered in more detail, should the relocation of the WwTW be taken forward. All options now presented look to take the relocation option forward, but this work has not yet been undertaken.

Additionally, we would question why the SA/SEA does not commit to the provision of a new WwTW and provision for sufficient sewage treatment works and wastewater capacity to cope with the additional demand that will arise from implementation of the Plan. There appears to be no such commitment within the current version of the NECAAP, which suggests a key component of the programme has been deferred for consideration at a later date which could represent a legal deficiency. The HRA (paragraph 5.6) recommends that policy wording is strengthened to ensure the NECAAP commits to the provision of a new WRC and that there is provision for appropriate upgrades and improvements to cope with the additional demand that will arise from development from the plan. We cannot see how this is possible in light of the draft SA/SEA’s approach, which seeks to disengage itself from the relocated WwTW with continued reference to the DCO process. The DCO process will be subject to the EIA Regulations but this would not inform the AAP. The AAP should therefore be assessed under SA/SEA to include the relocation of the WwTW as an intrinsic part of the plan in order to be legally compliant.