Savills, the agent representing Grainger Plc, wrote to SODC on 24th July 2015 with a request for a “screening opinion”.
We note that the date was a fully week prior to the closing date for public comment on their scheme. A clear indication of how much notice that they intend to take of public opinion.
The full details are available here.
So how should we react? Firstly, don’t worry or panic. This is not the Planning Application. Secondly, be very certain that a Planning Application is coming – whatever the overwhelming public opinion is on the matter.
A “Screening Opinion” is the planning process of deciding which projects require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Without going into too much detail “environment” is used in the widest sense of the word. This is a technical matter matter for the Planning Officer. Councillors and members of the public are not consulted. The Officer will determine whether the environmental impact of the proposals are likely to be “significant”. The Officer will reply on criteria specified in official regulations and make a case by case call.
Savills’ contention is that when it comes to transport, flood risk and drainage, ecology, trees,archeology and heritage, landscape and visual impact and land contamination that “the proposed development is not likely to lead to significant environmental impacts”. Yes, we dropped our mugs of builders tea as well.
So whats the big deal? If the Planning Officer deems that no EIA is required, then Grainger is green lighted to submit the planning application. If, on the other hand, the Planning Officer deems that it is required then Grainger will be obliged to pause and conduct the extensive work required to complete the EIA prior to submitting the planning application.
Although the Planning Officer is not obliged to consider outside opinion when making their decision we will be writing with our observations on some of the sweeping and highly contentious statements made by Savills in their request.
Finally, as Savills also point out an EIA will be required if the development is “controversial in any way”. So keep writing to your local Councillor and MP.