£100 million Golf Course permitted less than a mile from Giants Causeway World Heritage Site

Alex Attwood at Bushmills conducting a landscape sensitivity survey before retiring to the 19th hole

Northern Irish Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced his decision to grant planning permission for the Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa.

The application is for a proposed golf resort including 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy incorporating driving range, a 3-hole practice facility, 120 -bedroom hotel incorporating conference facilities & spa, 75 guest suites/lodges, and associated car parking, maintenance building and landscaping. It is to be built along the Whitepark Road and Causeway Road to the north of Bushmills and to the east of Portballintrae.

According to the press release

Announcing his decision today: the Minister said: “The recent success of our golf champions has created an international interest in golfing opportunities in Northern Ireland and this ambitious development will provide a further stimulus. It will bring significant benefits to the North Coast in terms of tourism – creating new jobs and providing new accommodation and so provide a significant boost to the local economy.

“This has been a demanding decision and I have not taken it lightly. Before deciding, I wanted to ensure that I was fully aware of the environmental aspects of the proposal – the likely impact on the setting of the World Heritage Site at Giant’s Causeway, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the local wildlife – and so recently spent time at the site assessing it from a number of different vantage points including the system of sand dunes. I particularly interrogated the issues around World Heritage status, the role of the World Heritage Centre (WHC)/UNESCO and the approach that may be taken by the WHC. I have acted with a high vigilance and challenging approach.

“I have carefully considered both sides of the argument but given the boost to tourism and the economy that the proposal will bring, I have decided to grant planning permission. To ensure that the environment is fully respected, my decision will be accompanied by stringent conditions which will mitigate the impacts of the development on the ecology of the site and the local landscape.

“The development is an important one for the Causeway Coast and for Northern Ireland, will help to grow tourism, create new job opportunities, enhance our golf product and continue to protect our natural heritage, such a big part of the quality of our lives.”

The Guardian has some reactions

Friends of the Earth’s Northern Ireland director, James Orr, said a more sensible approach would be to protect one of the country’s most important tourist attractions.

“Many discerning tourists will not expect to see a new hotel, practice greens, lighting, new houses and manicured lawns so close to the spectacular wildness of the Giants Causeway.

“By all means build another golf resort and hotel, but not here. Is it too much to ask that we build it in the right place and in a way that is supported by planning policies?

“Planning policies for that area are very clear – the landscape around the Giants Causeway should be protected. Instead, a form of landscape trauma is being permitted at Northern Ireland’s only world heritage site. It’s like building a drive-through burger bar at the Taj Mahal. The precedent set today is that our planning system still cannot protect our most special places.”

The National Trust said the dune system was the wrong place for such a large development and they would now consider their options.

This is an appallingly badly worded stgatement,  Especially as with planning decisions taken centrally this was a decision taken by the minister without a conventional meeting or public inquiry.  You would expect an assessment along the lines of – is this contrary to policy, if so are their material considerations which outweigh it.  The treatment of the World Heritage Site issue makes it seem as if the minister is looking for ways around the WNC/Unesco rather than examining his obligations under the convention.  It reminds me of the ministers decision in Scotland on the Donald Trump plans, approved with a one sentence memo almost instantly after receiving the inspectors report and clearly not having read it (as the inspector had a number of requests of the minister which were not fulfilled).  Knowing smthingabout the economics of golfcourses there are no new championship quality links golf courses built these days without a couple of hundred houses tacked on to cover the capital costs of building the course. Indedd there have been no new golf courses in England for 10 years.   So expects a follow up application in a year or so to build the extra houses because of concerns about viability.

David Cameron writes back to Anti Wind Farm Mps #NPPF


David Cameron has written to more than 100 of his own backbenchers who published an open letter to the PM asking for subsidies for “inefficient” on-shore wind power to be slashed, and complaining about planning policies putting national energy policies ahead of local objections.

In his reply, addressed to Chris Heaton-Harris, the Tory MP who organised the original letter, Cameron says he has sympathy with local residents’ concerns, but insists there are “perfectly hard-headed reasons” for building more on-shore wind farms – regardless of the UK’s commitments to meet targets for renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“On-shore wind plays a role in a balanced UK electricity mix, alongside gas, nuclear, cleaner coal and other forms of renewable energy,” said the prime minister. “A portfolio of different supplies enhances energy security and prevents the UK from becoming over-reliant on gas imports.”

The prime minister’s letter also said that new government planning laws were intended to give residents more say in combating unpopular planning proposals in their areas, while the Department of Energy and Climate Change has put forward a scheme under which local communities could take a financial stake in new renewable energy and claim some of the profits.

Badger Cull and #NPPF in same sentence – NFU WTF

NFU conference

Speaking to an audience which included Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman and the EU agriculture commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, Mr Kendall said that in order for farmers and growers to meet the massive food production challenge set by last year’s Foresight report it was time for all government and EU policy, across all departments and in all countries, to be looked at through a food security lens.

And he reminded them that the food and farming sector is a £100billion industry with the ability to kick-start the UK economy.

“Our over-riding priority is to realise our potential for delivering growth and boosting the economy – and by that I mean growth which is genuinely sustainable, now and into the future,” he said.

“The now’s really important, because the £100bn farming and food industry can help kick-start this country’s economic recovery.”

Mr Kendall praised Mrs Spelman and her farming minister, Jim Paice, for their commitment to eradicating bovine TB and what he called “the tough decision” to go ahead with badger culls in two pilot areas. He also praised the government’s proposed planning reforms.

“Getting planning consent is probably the single most frustrating process farmers experience, whether it’s for state-of-the-art poultry sheds, on-farm vegetable packhouses, polytunnels, high-welfare livestock housing or small-scale anaerobic digesters,” he added.

“We’re delighted to see a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the proposed National Planning Policy Framework and I urge the government to stick to its guns. As the Prime Minister has often said, the countryside has got to be allowed to prosper and grow. It can’t just be left to fossilise. We live there; trust us on that.”

So increase food security and reduce protection of agricultural land at the same time hmmmmm.

Cambridge Science Park Station to Open 2016 – Will also serve Northstowe New Town

Cambridge News

Construction of a second railway station in Cambridge has been given the green light by the Government – meaning it should open in 2015.

The long-awaited station, which will be built at Chesterton sidings and will be called Cambridge Science Park, should boost the local economy and enable travellers to catch trains to London and the rest of the country without having to battle through city centre traffic.

Transport minister Theresa Villiers has confirmed she will make the next operators of the King’s Cross line use ticket income to repay the £26 million construction bill, providing the project generates enough revenue. Cambridgeshire County Council will provide the initial costs of building and that work is planned to start in early 2014.

Cllr Nick Clarke, the authority’s leader, said the scheme will deliver a “really great new station and transport interchange”.

He said: “While there is still a lot to do, we are committed to do all we can to make it happen.”

The station will have three platforms, and will be served by at least four hourly southbound trains, two of which will terminate at King’s Cross, while the third will serve London Liverpool Street and a fourth from Norwich  will terminate in Cambridge.

There will be three northbound trains each hour, to Ely, King’s Lynn and Norwich, and it is likely trains on the Birmingham New Street to Stansted Airport route will also stop there.

The guided busway will be extended into the site from Milton Road, providing a link to St Ives and Huntingdon, while car and cycle parking will also be provided.

Cllr Tim Ward, Cambridge City Council’s executive councillor for sustainable transport, said: “This is exciting news and a major step forward in delivering a new station for Cambridge.

“The city council has supported this project for a long time and welcomes the opportunities this will bring for the wider area and Cambridge as a whole.”

It is thought 2,800 passengers would use a station in Chesterton daily, generating £10 million of ticket revenue annually and cutting city centre congestion.

The station would provide a quick link to the capital for businesses in the Science Park area and also for the new town of Northstowe.

The county council was set to approve funding for the project today and a detailed business case will be put before the cabinet on March 6.

Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “We look forward to working with the county council on this project which will be real boost to rail services in Cambridgeshire and deliver long-lasting benefits for people in the area.”

Is there now any national policy at all on when to recover and call in appeals? #NPPF


The policy statement on recovery and call in was removed from the practitioners draft of the NPPF and did not make its way into the consultation draft.

The annexes of the proprietary guidance setting out these policies has been deleted in the new version issued yesterday.

By the way there is a narrow difference between recovered appeals and call ins.  recovered appeals are where an appeal is made and recovered for decision by the SoS, call-ins are where the SoS issues a direction, to prevent an LPA approving it, before it can be heard at inquiry and then by the SoS.  Quite why the policy should be slightly different for the two always defeated me.

Perhaps one for a parliamentary written answer to ask what the current policy is.

Why the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ is a test of outcome not of process #NPPF

Issues regarding the duty to cooperate are rapidly becoming the key issue at many plan LPIs even though as we set out yesterday there is a period of purgatory while the ‘duty to cooperate’  is on the statute books but the new soundness test that will make it bite is not yet in force.

The latter is far more important and which I why im not too bothered about the arguments about whether the legal duty is backward looking, it is a duty to cooperate not a duty to agree as we have said on here many times and ultimately the test comes from whether the plan precludes good strategic planning outcomes.  That is because the new soundness test, though crudely mixing up issues of process and outcome is ultimately about whether or not the the plan as submitted meets this test through reflecting NPPF policy – in particular

meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is practical to do so consistently with the presumption in favour of sustainable development (para 48);

strategic priorities across local boundaries are properly co‑ordinated and clearly reflected in individual Local Plans (para.45) &

work together to meet development requirements which cannot wholly be met within their own area (para 47)

Indeed even if there was no NPPF the DCLG would need to issue an urgent amendment to PPS12 to cover this issue.

A good example of these point is raised by a story in Planning 

Wokingham Borough Council has voted to object to neighbouring Bracknell Forest District Council’s plans to allocate a number of sites for housing, accusing the authority of failing to comply with the Localism Act’s duty to cooperate.

An officer’s report which went before Wokingham Council’s executive said: “It is considered that the development of some of the sites allocated within the document would have implications for this council, particularly for the provision of services and infrastructure.”

Wokingham’s objections concern two sites which would join Binfield and Crowthorne with Wokingham, which it says contravenes Bracknell Forest’s own core strategy.

It also said that a cluster of sites at Amen Corner did not provide the required documentation addressing the effects of development on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area.

In addition, it says that Bracknell Forest is failing to meet the requirements of the duty to cooperate introduced by the Localism Act, by failing to improve road junctions and provide for community infrastructure near the new developments.

Though in this case with Green Belt to the North and East  and Forest to the South it would seem development towards Wokingham might be the only realistic option.

London Office Pipeline – lack of prelets mean most ‘iconic’ schemes wont get built

EC Harris published a report today on London’s Office Development Pipeline

There are currently 150 projects with the potential to deliver over 53 million sq ft of floor space by 2016, but, not all will be delivered. Tenants are becoming rarer and much more cautious about committing to new space.

The London office development market is not immune to the Euro crisis. Diminishing tenant optimism and tighter funding markets have made it more difficult to launch
projects via the traditional development route of debt-funded pre-let. Alongside this, decisions by some occupiers to opt for a lease extension or relocation into an existing building means that hopes for a wave of redevelopment driven by lease renewal could be unfounded

60% of this space is in the City.

The Standard reports that The Pinnacle, Cheesegrater, Walkie Talkie and Shard – all under construction – have reportedly secured only one major office letting between them.

Thierry Henry’s Four Storey Fishtank House Criticised

The proposed new house

As Envisioned by the Daily Mail

Building Design

De Metz Forbes Knight Architects’ plans for a family home for football player Thierry Henry have been slammed by critics and the architect of an existing building on the site.

Henry asked DMFK to “improve the grandeur and status of the house” in Hampstead, north London, which he purchased in 2001. He wants to demolish the existing Richard MacCormac-designed building on the site.

His design brief includes “sufficient wardrobe space” and “a better swimming pool”, as well as space to entertain guests. In addition, DMFK is proposing an aquarium stretching from the basement to the second floor.

Catherine Croft, director at the Twentieth Century Society, said she would be submitting the 1999 building for listing consideration by English Heritage.

“The application will be controversial because the building is so young,” she said. “But as far as I know nothing by [Richard MacCormac] is listed and he’s one of the most influential architects of the late 20th century.”

In its design and access statement DMFK said: “It [the existing house] won no awards and is not presented or acknowledged as a significant work. While Richard MacCormac has dealt with a large range of building types and forms, luxury housing is not a key part of his oeuvre, and the house can be considered to make a minor contribution to his canon.”…

A planning application has been submitted to Camden Council and comments can be submitted until March 8.

Daily Mail

As well as the vast cost of construction, the 15ft long by 3ft wide tank will set Henry back £12,000  a year to run, including weekly inspections at about £50 an hour. The annual bill for fish food alone would be £2,500.

The French footballer – who fronted the ‘va-va-voom’ TV adverts for car firm Renault – is the latest in a long line of celebrities including Madonna, the Beckhams, Cher and Premier League footballers Stephen Ireland, Joe Hart and Micah Richards, to splash out on opulent fish tanks.

Ireland has reportedly spent more than £100,000 on his 13ft aquarium, and is now believed to be planning a shark tank under his kitchen floor.

But Henry’s super-size version will dwarf them all.

is aquarium will actually be made up of four separate tanks, one for each storey of the house.
Each will be made of Perspex-like material and will give the optical illusion of one giant aquarium – but will be cheaper to clean, run and maintain than a single tank.

One industry expert last night  said the £12,000-a-year bill for  heating, cleaning and lighting the tanks would be just a fraction of the £80,000 it would cost to maintain one huge tank.

Each aquarium will require a filtration system to ensure the water stays clean and fresh. Experts say there are 2,000 species of marine life suitable for the tanks, ranging from smaller breeds of shark to clown fish, yellow tangs, blue tangs and angel fish.

It has been suggested that the celebrity obsession with aquariums has nothing to do with a fondness for fish.

One tank designer, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Our client list tends to be male-dominated and they are looking for status symbols and showpieces.’

Henry’s new home will be taller than the existing one and include  a bar, a cinema and a swimming pool. Despite spending at least £2 million on rebuild costs, the finished house is likely to be worth at least £10 million.

The footballer is keen to highlight the eco-features of the new home, which includes extensive glass panelling to capture natural light and a so-called ‘biodiverse’ roof, which will incorporate plants and trees.

But the house’s original architect, Sir Richard MacCormac, is opposed to the proposed demolition.

Sir Richard, who also designed  the Wellcome wing of the Science Museum, said last night: ‘I don’t think you improve sustainability by demolishing a house which is just 13 years old.

‘It surprises me that someone  who can afford to build a new house and who claims to be serious about architecture should not simply build another one elsewhere.

‘I think my original design is well regarded locally and I think a lot of people are going to be upset.
‘The existing house has a very deliberate low-key design to ensure that it would not look out of place in the conservation area.’

The Rather Beautiful and Award Winning Existing Richard Mc Cormack House

The existing house clearly positively contributes to the conservation area and to my mind is a straightforward refusal/

Healy – ‘We hugely overspecified on planning and created a planning panopoly’ #NPPF

Inside Housing

Former housing minister John Healey has admitted the approach of the last Labour government to building more homes through central targets was a failure and that the party ‘turned over’ too many housing ministers.

 Speaking yesterday at the National Housing Federation’s annual leaders’ forum in London, the MP for Wentworth and Dearne added that the housing sector was too ‘introverted’ to effectively present its case to government and called for a more coherent central message.

Asked if he felt the strategy of implementing housing targets through the nine regional housing strategies for England had been a success, Mr Healey said: ‘A qualified no. We hugely overspecified on planning and created a planning panopoly.’

The former shadow secretary of state for health added that housing professionals faced a central government which operated in silos and admitted ‘…in my 11 months as housing minister I didn’t have a single meeting with anyone from the department for health and didn’t ask for one’.

Mr Healey said part of the reason for this was that ‘…the approach to housing is too fragmented by tenure. This doesn’t then build to a wider sense of crisis in housing in government.

‘I have never come across such an introverted field as housing. It doesn’t make connections that force people to recognise that housing is an economic crisis; it is a health crisis.’

He added that housing professionals had a compelling story to tell, but that the current government ‘…is not one which believes in social housing. It is going to become more rump housing for the benefit-dependent’.

Feral Horses at ‘Crisis Point’ in South Wales

BBC Wales

Dumped and abandoned horses are putting lives at risk, causing a major problem for police and costing councils in south Wales thousands of pounds.

Police say the problem has reached crisis point in Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan with 497 calls last month.

An investigation by BBC Wales into so-called fly-grazing has revealed it is an issue from Pembrokeshire to Newport.

Tom Price, who runs “Welsh Gypsy Horses” exporting animals, says he has been the focus of false accusations.

In response to questions from BBC Wales’ Week In Week Out programme he insists he is a responsible horse owner and not the only owner of Welsh Gypsy Cobs in south Wales.

Al Francis, a respected horse-breeder who works closely with the Gypsy community, says those who trade in horses have been hit hard by the recession.

He told the programme: “Until people stop this breeding for breeding’s sake – this problem will get worse.”

The programme has uncovered evidence that the situation is getting worse, with a big rise in calls to police about stray horses.

The RSPCA has investigated nearly 2000 welfare complaints in the last year alone.

Animal charities are also overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.

Put to sleep

The Redwings Sanctuary in Norfolk recently rescued 23 horses that had been left to fly-graze near Cardiff Airport.

Nick De Brauwere, a vet at the centre. said: “Sadly three of them were succumbing to respiratory conditions and the only humane thing to do was to put them to sleep.”

Week In Week Out has filmed at a Bridgend Comprehensive School where a dozen stray gypsy horses were running loose in the school grounds.

Head teacher Alwyn Thomas told his constituency MP that it is a common occurrence. “Children will no doubt be kicked one day – that’s a real fear of mine,” he said.

When the horses appear a member of the local Gypsy community is called to round them up.

On the occasion the programme was filming at the school, Mr Price’s son turned up to assist, but said the horses were not his.

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon told the programme: “We have horse owners who are irresponsibly driving down the M4 and cherry-picking where they can drop off and deposit their horses.”

She is calling for a more efficient and effective way to trace owners and make them more accountable.

Currently horses are supposed to be micro-chipped and have a passport, but some owners are openly flouting the regulations.

Hooded youth

Cardiff council has appointed its own horse warden to round-up stray and abandoned animals.

While Week In Week Out was filming with Lucy Hamblett she called for police back-up after a horse she had seized was taken from her by a hooded youth who claimed it was his.

“At the end of the day, I can’t fight them. The issue with the police is they don’t respond time after time,” she said.

Supt Paul James of South Wales Police, who is heading a task force working in conjunction with local authorities, said a new initiative will send a clear message to horse owners.

“If they’re on the highway, we will take them off you: if we take them off you and you want them back it’ll cost you £200,” he said.

But reporter Nick Palit has discovered the new strategy has already run into problems.

Stray horses that were rounded up and put in a supposedly secure compound were spirited away in the dead of night.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Conservatives in the assembly, is calling on the Welsh government to act, and said better co-ordination or additional powers may be needed.

Week In Week Out is broadcast at 22:35 GMT on BBC1 Wales on Tuesday 21 February