Schedule 4 of the EIA Regulations requires an applicant to provide an outline of the reasonable alternatives considered when developing proposals and an indication of the main reasons for the choices made, taking into account the environmental effects.
In recent years, AM-P has led the EIA process in relation to a number of large-scale residential developments which have either already been allocated in an adopted Local Plan or are proposed to be allocated within an emerging Local Plan. Therefore, the identification of reasonable alternatives has focused less on alternative locations for the development and more on alternative forms and design options of the proposed development.
With particular reference to a recent project to obtain outline planning permission for a residential-led mixed-use development at Warren Farm, located on the western edge of Chelmsford, the form and design of the proposed development was influenced by reasonable alternatives identified through an iterative Masterplanning process.
Given the site’s allocation in the recently adopted Local Plan reasonable alternatives such as alternative locations, quantum of development and ‘do nothing’ where considered inappropriate for serious consideration given the adopted policy framework. However, analysis and evaluation of the evidence base, constraints and site assets resulted in the identification of a number of ‘fixes’ and key drivers which influenced the identification of a range of reasonable alternatives. These ‘fixes’ and key drivers included:
• Flood plains and ecological interests;
• The two main vehicular access points into the site;
• Existing Public Rights of Way;
• The need to devise a circular bus route that connected into the site;
• The desire to provide convenient and safe connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists;
• Estate and the new development to encourage community integration and sharing of facilities;
• The desire to protect long distance views towards countyside and skyline trees;
• The need to retain and enhance the existing vegetation on the periphery of the site;
• To meet the specific requirements regarding the provision of a primary school, Neighbourhood Centre and site for Travelling Showpeople.
Following consideration of all these issues and feedback from the Council, stakeholders and local community, the Masterplan evolved through the consideration of reasonable alternatives. Each was tested and assessed until a preferred proposal was agreed.
In this example, reasonable alternatives focused more on design and form due to the existing allocation and planning policy framework. The preferred proposal adopted in the Masterplan was reflected in the Parameter Plans developed as part of the EIA and submitted as part of the planning application. This demonstrates how consideration of reasonable alternatives clearly evolved and shaped the final proposals assessed by the Environmental Statement.
Article Prepared by Mr Ian Butcher, Associate Director, Andrew Martin – Planning, March 2022