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News in brief: Network Rail signs up to newt licence; Fossil fuel lags behind renewable energy generation

Words: Laura Edgar
Great crested newt / iStock-1090118514

A round-up of planning news: Tuesday 30 March, 2021

Network Rail signs up to newt licence

Network Rail has signed up to an agreement that aims to enable rail works and protect the natural habitat of the great crested newt. The operator of Britain's railway infrastructure is the first organisation in the country to sign up to the deal with Natural England.

The great crested newt is usually found in ponds, woodland or underground, and can be affected by rail maintenance and improvement work.

Natural England has granted Network Rail a new licence to ensure that any newt habitat affected by teams working on the Midland Main Line upgrade is compensated for by the creation of a new habitat. The scheme is being carried out in collaboration with NatureSpace Partnership.

The railway upgrade is being carried out between Market Harborough and St Pancras International and the licence covers all aspects of the improvement programme, from setting up compounds to building railway embankments and installing new equipment.


Fossil fuel lags behind renewable energy generation

Government statistics show that renewable electricity generation outperformed fossil fuels for the first year in 2020.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s energy trends report, renewable sources provided 43 per cent of the UK’s electricity. Fossil fuels generated 38.5 per cent only.

In 2020, onshore and offshore wind generated 24.2 per cent of the UK’s renewable power, which breaks down to 13 per cent from offshore wind and 11.2 per cent from onshore wind. Together, renewables and nuclear power generated 59 per cent.

The report states: “The increase in renewable generation in 2020 was driven by high levels of generation from wind, which increased by 18 per cent compared with 2019.”

It adds that fossil fuel generation in 2020 “was the lowest value on the published data series at 120.5 TWh, 38.5 per cent of electricity generated”.

RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Melanie Onn said the data shows that “renewables are keeping this country reliably powered up during the most challenging period any of us have faced for many decades”.

The statistics can be found on the UK Government website.


WMCA invests in Birmingham brownfield site

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has invested more than £5 million into a development scheme in Digbeth.The investment is a result of the combined authority’s brownfield-first policy and will come from the Land Fund.

The site is a five-minute walk away from the future Curzon Street HS2 Station and a number of existing rail links including Moor Street Station. Known as Stone Yard, the build-to-rent scheme will be built across seven blocks, with the tallest standing at 32 storeys.

The scheme is being led by Birmingham-based residential developer Court Collaboration.


Office redevelopment in Westminster approved

Westminster City Council has been granted planning permission for the adaptive reuse and office extension of the Crown Estate’s landmark 20 Carlton House Terrace.

The scheme involves delivering an additional three floors on the 1970s St James building so that it comprises a total of 162,000 square feet for commercial uses across 11 storeys.

It will be delivered by developers Clivedale London in 2023 and aims to cater for a post-pandemic market.


Cultural hub in Hayes gets go-ahead

The London Borough of Hillingdon has granted planning permission for its plans to bring the former pressing plant at The Old Vinyl Factory back into use as a multiscreen cinema and mixed-use community venue.

Regeneration specialist U+I, in collaboration with community developer/operator Really Local Group, is behind the plans.

Formerly known as Apollo House, the site will be called The Gramophone. It is the final part of The Old Vinyl Factory development located at the site of the former EMI record plant. The locally listed building had been partially demolished before it was acquired by Really Local Group in 2019.

As well as four-screen cinema, The Gramophone comprises a café/bar, ‘listening room’, recording studios, workspace and an interactive exhibition.


Speculative plans for industrial development submitted

An application for a speculative industrial scheme at Crow Lane in Northampton has been submitted to Northampton Borough Council.

Trebor and partner Hillwood's scheme is for land to the east of the town centre, next to the A45 dual carriageway. The units, 90,014 square feet and 57,834 square feet in size, would be developed as a single phase and available to lease in 2022. The scheme will be known as Gateway 45.


Firm appointed to create an aviation test centre in Scotland

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has appointed Arcadis to plan, design and deliver the infrastructure needed to create the UK’s first “operationally-based, low-carbon” aviation test centre in Scotland.

The test centre will be based at Kirkwall Airport in the Orkney Islands. It is part of a project known as SATE (Sustainable Aviation Test Environment), which is intended to identify the next generation of air services and the operational airport infrastructure required to support sustainable aviation.

The £3.7 million project will be part-funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

It was launched in November as part of UKRI’s Future Flight Challenge and will run for 18 months.

Arcadis will work alongside a consortium of aviation industry specialists, including HIAL, local businesses, public sector bodies and academia. The consortium’s work will investigate how to implement zero-carbon airport infrastructure using green energy sources – trialling a host of new transport options.


Views sought on neighbourhood plan

Residents of the village of Hammerwich, in Lichfield, have been invited to contribute their views on the development of the area.

Hammerwich Parish Council has submitted a neighbourhood plan for the Hammerwich neighbourhood area to Lichfield District Council. The plan will be available online for six weeks so that organisations and individuals can put forward their views. The consultation will be open until 5pm on 5 May.

The Hammerwich neighbourhood plan can be found on the Lichfield District Council website.

Image credit | iStock