We have previously posted an update about Nitrogen Deposition impacts of the proposed LTC, based on info that was shared in the Local Refinement Consultation. In the Minor Refinements Consultation NH/LTC have made some nitrogen deposition changes in regard to proposed compensation land.
One of the first things to note is that in the associated section of the Minor Refinements Consultation booklet, they refer to Land Use on page 4, and state’ “The land we need permanently to build and operate the LTC was 14.87km2 and is now proposed to be 14.49km2. This is indicated by pink shading in Figure 3.8 and Figure 3.9”.
When you turn to pages 24 and 25 where Figures 3.8 and 3.9 are located there is no difference at all that we can see between the pink shaded areas. (shown below). We have emailed NH/LTC to ask about this.
For more information on other changes in the map below please see the consultation booklet and/or our Revised utility proposals (East Tilbury) update.
So what about the changes to Nitrogen Deposition compensation land?
The two sites in question when it comes to these proposed changes are the Blue Bell Hill site and the Burham site. (Image at the top of this update shows the sites)
We have submitted a lot of questions on this aspect of the consultation, but from what we can tell, it seems that NH/LTC are proposing to remove the whole of the Burham site (approx 10 hectares), and removing part (29 hectares of the Blue Bell Hill site from the order limits, leaving approx 43 hectares within the Order Limits.
We note that whilst they are proposing removing the Burham site from the Order Limits we weren’t actually consulted about adding the site to the Order Limits. NH/LTC added the Burham site to the order limits after the Local Refinement Consultation took place.
The reasoning for removing the Burham site seems to be connected to the site now being part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which is a government scheme that provides financial incentives for farmers, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment.
NH/LTC say that the site has only just been confirmed for Countryside Stewardship, yet a quick online search suggests that applications for the 2023 Countryside Stewardship opened in Feb 2022. We have questioned the timings on this aspect, because it is being stated that the Burham site was added between the Local Refinement Consultation ending on 20th June 2022 and the LTC DCO application being submitted 31st October 2022. It would therefore appear to suggest, with the info available, that there is a likelihood that the application for the Countryside Stewardship for the Burham site would have already been submitted at the time NH added it to the LTC order limits.
We also question why we weren’t consulted about additional land being added to the order limits before the site was added.
Something that has been very apparent with LTC is that as an NSIP it has the ability to trump pretty much everything, so we also ask why Countryside Stewardship trumps an NSIP, if this land was previously considered to be needed enough to add it to the Order Limits without even consulting people on it.
Despite originally proposing provision for 279 hectares of nitrogen deposition compensation land in the Local Refinement Consultation, with the intention of reducing the amount of around 250ha by the time the DCO application was submitted, the DCO application actually included 245ha of compensatory land, which with these latest proposed changes would leave the compensatory land at just 205 hectares. This seems like a considerable drop to us, and we’ve seen no evidence to convince us this would be adequate.
Remember also that the Burham site was not consulted on in the Local Refinement Consultation, so this was a 10ha site that was added in what appears to be a rather random way, without any consultation, and the fist we learnt about it is as they are proposing to remove it. All seems very strange to us.
Not forgetting that this is compensation land, not mitigatory land, so it won’t solve the problem and impacts of nitrogen deposition, only supposedly compensate for the harm it would inflict.
Whilst we have concerns about the impact of the LTC to agricultural land, we also have concerns about nitrogen deposition and impacts to the natural environment. The proposed LTC would be a hugely destructive and harmful project, which we know would fail against the newly introduced Biodiversity Net Gain requirements that come in in Nov 2025. Of course for us it should not be about whether this proposed change is favourable or not, what needs addressing is that the whole LTC project needs to be scrapped.
Questions we put to NH/LTC on this change
Below are some questions we put to NH/LTC in regard to this proposed change after reading the consultation booklet, along with their responses:
Please could someone explain the following:
Q1. On page 4 of the consultation booklet, under Land Use, it states:
“The land we need permanently to build and operate the LTC was 14.87km2 and is now proposed to be 14.49km2. This is indicated by pink shading on Figure 3.8 and 3.9.”
However, there is no apparent change in the area covered in pink shading between Figure 3.8 and 3.9 (pages 24/25)
Can someone please explain what is meant by this statement, and provide clear and informative information and maps to show exactly what is being referred to please.
“In reference to the pink shading area on Figure 3.8 and 3.9, you are correct that this area has not changed. The first sentence relates to the amount of land required across the entire project and these amounts are correct.
This section of the consultation materials and the associated figures were being used to explain to those consultees not familiar with changes in land use what the different colours represent. A combined set of figures showing both changes to land use and other changes was considered, however this was felt to likely make the figures too complex.
The reduction of permanent land stated in this sentence relates to the reduction in permanent land associated with the nitrogen deposition compensation sites at Blue Bell Hill and Burham and there is no permanent land reduction at East Tilbury.”
Q2. Since the map areas in Figures 3.8 and 3.9 show the East Tilbury area, please can someone confirm whether there is any proposed permanent land use reduction in the area shown in those figures?
“There are no permanent land use reductions proposed at East Tilbury. All reductions relate to temporary land use and temporary land use with permanent rights.“
Q3. Please can someone confirm exactly where the permanent land use reduction that is stated is actually being proposed?
“The reduction in permanent land required for the Project relates to the reduction in Order Limits shown in Figure 3.2 associated with the reduction in nitrogen deposition compensation at Blue Bell Hill and Burham.”
Q4. Please advise when the Burham site was added to the order limits
“The Burham site was added to the Order Limits for the DCO application following consideration of the responses to the Local Refinement Consultation and prior to submission of the DCO application in October 2022 following consultation with the affected landowner.”
Q5. Please advise why the Burham site was not included in the Local Refinement Consultation
“The draft proposals in the Local Refinement Consultation did not include the Burham site as, at that point in the development of the proposals, the larger site at Blue Bell Hill was considered to be the most likely preferable site. Further detail is provided in the responses below.”
Q6. Please advise why there wasn’t a consultation regarding adding the Burham site?
“We consulted with landowners on a further tranche of minor changes, including the Burham site in September 2022. The details of this consultation was included in the consultation report within our DCO Application.”
Q7. Please advise why the Burham site was added?
“The Burham site was added after the landowner proposed alternative locations within their ownership (including the Burham site), which were reviewed for consistency with the achievement of the compensation objectives. It was concluded that a combination of some of the original Blue Bell Hill site and the Burham site would achieve the objectives and accommodate landowner preferences. “
Q8. Please advise why you added the Burham site rather than those you consulted on in Local Refinement Consultation?
“The Burham site was added after the landowner proposed alternative locations within their ownership (including the Burham site), which were reviewed for consistency with the achievement of the compensation objectives. It was concluded that a combination of some of the original Blue Bell Hill site and the Burham site would achieve the objectives and accommodate the landowner preferences.“
Q9. When did you learn about the Countryside Stewardship scheme on the Burham site?
“The landowner’s participation in the Countryside Stewardship scheme was raised with us by the landowner during our discussions. This was after submission of the DCO application.”
Q10. How long did it take to get the Countryside Stewardship approved? Had the application not been submitted at the time you added it to the order limits?
“The application for Countryside Stewardship grant is a matter for the landowner. We were not made aware of the landowner’s participation in the Countryside Stewardship scheme at the time the Burham site was included in the proposals, nor prior to the DCO application being submitted.“
Q11. Why is the Burham site being removed from the order limits?
“Ongoing discussions with the landowner of the Burham and Blue Bell Hill sites has led to further information becoming available following the DCO Application being submitted. The achievement of the objectives of the proposed ecological compensation have been reviewed in light of this new information and we have put forward a new proposal in the Change Application which achieves the objectives of the compensation requirements and responds to the feedback we’ve received from the landowner.”
Q12. Why does the LTC, as an NSIP, not trump the Countryside Stewardship when NSIPs seem to trump everything else?
“It is not a matter of a hierarchy between a DCO and the Countryside Stewardship scheme. The new information about the Countryside Stewardship scheme led us to put forward alternative proposals which respond to the feedback from the landowner while also meeting our objectives.”
Q13. Why have the implication of the LTC proposals on the farm business in this case (Burham) been given weight to warrant removing land from the order limits, but other farmers for whom the LTC proposals would severely impact have to put up with it? What is different with Burham?
” Impacts on business have been considered for all potential and proposed sites. New information on the business impacts on the landowner became available, which initiated a review of our proposals. No new information on the business impacts on other nitrogen deposition compensation sites has been put forward to us.”
Q14. How can you drop the proposed nitrogen deposition compensation from an initial provision for 279ha, say you are going to reduce it to around 250ha, then drop it to 245ha, and now drop it to 205ha? How can this be deemed adequate, when previously you said more than 205ha was needed?
“The Local Refinement Consultation included proposals that were likely to be an overprovision so that a meaningful consultation could be held on the most appropriate sites to take forward. At that stage the expectation of the area of significantly affected habitat was approximately 250ha, hence the expectation of a requirement for a comparable area of compensation of 250ha. In light of responses to the Local Refinement Consultation and additional information received (including final assessment of the area of significantly affected habitat), the proposals were refined to provide a balanced proposal between precaution and proportionality.“
Q15. If Countryside Stewardship scheme is about increased ecological connectivity, have you re-assessed the farm the nitrogen deposition as a result of LTC would have taking the new ecological value of the Burham site as a Countryside Stewardship site?
“Guidance requires the assessment of nitrogen deposition on ecologically designated sites and irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland. There is no requirement to assess farms, even if they are within the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.”
Q16. Why was the addition of the Burham site first deemed necessary, if you are now saying removing it makes no difference?
“During the refinement of the proposals following consideration of the responses to the Local Refinement Consultation for the DCO application the Burham site was added, and the Blue Bell Hill site reduced in area as a balanced proposal that met the objectives of the compensation and responded to representations from the landowner. Since the application, further information has become available that led to a further review and refinement.”
Q17. Have you reassessed the traffic modelling data for that area, taking into account the two year delay, to reconsider the impacts of nitrogen deposition?
“National Highways letter of 30 March 2023 to the ExA, which responded to their request for comments on the Ministerial Statement [PD-011-9], stated that “Consequently, the DCO, if granted as drafted, would allow for this two year rephase without any need for change in the Application documents, including the submitted assessments and the proposed powers sought within the draft Development Consent Order [AS-038]” As such, no reassessment has taken place.“
Q18. Have you taken the Blue Bell Hill improvements scheme into account when assessing LTC impacts to Blue Bell Hill (A229)?
“The highway schemes that are included within the Project’s transport model are set out within Table A.2 of 7.7 Combined Modelling and Appraisal Report – Appendix C – Transport Forecasting Package Annexes [APP-523]. This does not include the proposed Blue Bell improvements as they have not yet reached a sufficient level of design development. Kent County Council are progressing this proposed scheme, with updates provided on their project website here.”
Q19. Please advise how much the estimated increase in greenhouse gas emissions would be and provide details of the emissions expected
“The very small increase in greenhouse gas emissions referred to in the Consultation Materials is not related to construction activities. It is related to the proposed land use at Blue Bell Hill no longer changing from agricultural land (arable) to nitrogen deposition compensation (i.e. woodland/grass habitat). In the context of the project, the very small increase is negligible and does not result in any materially new or different environmental effects.”
Q20. As well as the Burham site, has any other land been added to the Order Limits since the Local Refinement Consultation?
“No land has been added to the Order Limits for nitrogen deposition compensation since the Local Refinement Consultation. No responses to the Local Refinement Consultation or new information made available since the Local Refinement Consultation has required land to be added to the Order Limits.”
Q21. Please detail and signpost us to any other changes that you have made between the Local Refinement Consultation and the DCO application being submitted.
“The DCO Application and the Minor Refinement Consultation represent the latest version of the Project proposals.“
Q22. Please explain how the amount of compensatory land for nitrogen deposition has been calculated. Who decides how much is enough and how have they done so?
“The amount of compensatory land for nitrogen deposition has been calculated by setting the objective of providing a comparable area to the area significantly affected by nitrogen deposition. This objective was set as a balance between precaution and proportionality proposed by the Project in consultation and agreement with Natural England.”