Response from Sustainable Harwell, submitted 16 June 2021
APPLICATION FOR INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT, AT FORMER ESSO RESEARCH CENTRE, MILTON HILL, OX13 6BD.
While we welcome developments on brownfield sites that provide opportunities for the local economy we are appalled by the poor quality of this application’s treatment of climate change and other sustainability issues. We strongly object to its approval unless the issues below are fully addressed.
The Vale of the White Horse District Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 but this application puts forward a ‘business as usual’ development that would drive us further towards climate breakdown. The main issues to address are transport and the site infrastructure.
Suitability of location
Despite the market report included in the application, it seems that other local sites would be far more appropriate for new warehousing.
The proposal will greatly increase heavy vehicle traffic between the A34 Milton Interchange and the development site. Also, very few workers will be able to reach the site by any means other than a car. The following measures are essential to redress the impact this will have on the quality of life of local communities:
- Traffic to the site must be banned from using the A4130 south of the site and the High Street in Steventon; this applies to both the construction phase of the development and its subsequent operation
- The speed limit from the A34 Milton Interchange to the site must be reduced to 30 mph to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclist and to reduce vehicle emissions
- Stepped cycle tracks must be provided on both sides of the A4130 from the site to the A34 Milton Interchange in accordance with Oxfordshire County Council’s Cycling design standards
- Existing footways on the east side of the road must be maintained and the footway from the site to the junction with Featherbed Lane must be increased in width by at least 0.5m
- Existing planned improvement works for Featherbed Lane must be completed before any work commences
- Improved pedestrian and cycle paths are needed to allow people from nearby villages to the south to access the car on foot or by bicycle. The footway along the A4130 to the south of the site is very narrow and will need to be widened to Rowstock Roundabout. Stepped cycle lanes are needed on both sides of the A4130 from the site southwards to Rowstock Roundabout.
- Signalled crossings are need for pedestrians and cyclists near the entrance from the A4130.
- We are concerned that the development will further increase traffic on the already congested A34
Site infrastructure issues
The applicant is targeting a BREEAM Excellent rating, which is laudable, but is only helpful if it is achieved. Hence, permission to operate should only be given once the BREEAM Excellent assessment has been achieved.
Despite the climate emergency, there does not appear to be any reference to generating energy from renewable sources. The proposed large buildings are eminently suitable for solar panels and the provision of photovoltaic generation should be a pre-requisite for approval.
Lorries are a major source of carbon emissions but there does not appear to be any recognition of this by the developers. If planning approval is granted, we urge the Vale of the White Horse District Council to make a commitment to site carbon neutrality by 2035 a condition of continued operation.
The application recognises that there will need to be mitigation to avoid environmental degradation and this must be fully implemented. However, the application omits to mention the impact of artificial lighting on the site. As this is likely to be on all night, it will be very bad for many species in this rural area. If the application is approved, it needs to meet dark sky lighting requirements.
While we object to this development, if it does go ahead, we believe that this could be an exemplary site if the developer commits to sustainability. Sustainable Harwell would welcome the opportunity to engage with the developer to achieve this.