News Archive

West Midland Safari Park £80m Expansion

17 December 2015

West Midland Safari Park £80m Expansion

Wyre Forest District Council has resolved unanimously to grant planning permission for an £80m indoor water park, 250-bedroom hotel, spa and 1000-delegate conference centre at West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire. The planning application was submitted by RPS, who also provided EIA, landscape, heritage, ecology, transport and flood risk advice.

Nick Laister, Senior Director with RPS’ Oxford office, says: “This development will turn the safari park into an all-year resort and create hundreds of jobs in the area. Around 290 more full time jobs at the Park are anticipated to arise around the expansion, with the Park hoping to recruit from the local area as per its usual practice.”

Plans were initially announced in November 2011 and the application was submitted in August 2014.

The water park, which is Phase 1 of the development, is designed to deliver seven waterslides, a splash area, wave pool, external river rapids and a 200-seat restaurant. The expansion will be delivered over the next 10 years, with the waterpark expected to open in 2017.

Nick Laister has achieved a number of planning permissions for the attractions industry in 2015, including the new Peter Rabbit attraction at Willows Activity Farm and a new display building for the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

SNH raises wind farm avoidance rate for red-throated diver

15 December 2015

SNH raises wind farm avoidance rate for red-throated diver

In the face of mounting evidence, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is updating the avoidance rate to use in collision risk modelling to 99.5% for this key species

RPS has been working with SNH on improving its avoidance rate for red-throated divers. This rate is central to industry-standard collision risk modelling and has a major influence on the model’s prediction of bird strikes with wind turbines. Setting the rate too low produces inflated estimates of collision mortality, which can unnecessarily inhibit wind farm consents. Raising it to 99.5% creates a more appropriate basis from which to predict turbine collision rates.

Backed up by a range of data, including RPS’ monitoring results at a number of wind farms, the evidence is overwhelming which SNH is now acting upon. RPS has also presented SNH with evidence that divers can nest in proximity to operational turbines, demonstrating that projects can be constructed and operated without disturbance to this protected species.

Our Ornithology team can advise on resolution of diver or any other bird issues. With over 15 years’ renewable energy experience, we provide clients with cost-effective consent and construction solutions for all renewable energy projects

RPS Leads Southwest Scotland Flood Strategy

10 December 2015

RPS Leads Southwest Scotland Flood Strategy

Loch Lomond from Duncryne Hill. FreeImages.com/Bryan Weir

RPS' Belfast office was commissioned by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) as the lead consultant to prepare a Flood Risk Management Strategy for the South West region of Scotland. The Strategy was required by the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 to enable the Scottish Government to quantify and prioritise expenditure in flood risk management over the first two cycles of the Floods Directive.

The strategy also provided the baseline information required to inform Local Flood Risk Management Plans, which are currently being taken forward by the Local Authorities. This was the first time a national approach had been taken to flood risk management in Scotland, which meant a consistent and robust quantification and characterisation of flood risk had to be established across the country.

The South West region incorporates three Local Plan Districts, being LPD11 – Clyde and Loch Lomond, LPD12 – Ayrshire and LPD14 – Solway.

RPS was responsible for the development and assessment, at a strategic level, of a wide range of flood risk management measures that have the potential to eliminate or reduce the risk of surface water, river and coastal flooding within 66 areas of significant risk, known as potentially vulnerable areas (PVAs), in the South West region of Scotland.

High water levels at a beech wood in Scotland. FreeImages.com/ B Cleary

The objectives of the project can be broadly summarised as:

To Characterise and quantify the flood risk to all property, assets and key infrastructure in 66 PVAs.

To develop Objectives for flood risk management in the PVAs.

To Short List Actions that would reduce or eliminate flood risk in the PVAs.

To provide a quantitative and qualitative pre-feasibility appraisal of these short listed actions, to assess their applicability to these specific PVAs.

To provide a clear output of the Selected Actions for the Local Authorities to implement in the local Flood Risk Management Plan during the first and/or future cycles of the floods directive.

The project was broken into a series of work packages and deliverables that were completed by RPS in partnership with 14 Local Authorities (LAs) and key stakeholders, including Scottish Water, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and the Forestry Commission Scotland.

Throughout the project RPS invested significant time and resources in communication and stakeholder engagement at all levels from statutory meetings to one to one workshops. RPS combined the strategic modelling output combined with local detailed knowledge of the stakeholders to ensure that the proposed strategic measures would be effective, financially viable, spatially correct and socially and environmentally acceptable. In return the strategic approach taken by this process provided the LAs with a strategic overview of the existing flood risk and clear direction on how to prioritise their capital expenditure over the next few cycles of the floods directive.

The project commenced in June 2013 and was successfully completed in June 2015.

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RPS Communications Director Conferred with Fellowship of Public Relations Institute of Ireland

03 December 2015

RPS Communications Director Conferred with Fellowship of Public Relations Institute of Ireland

Image: Jason Clarke Photography

RPS Communications Director, Neasa Kane-Fine has just been invited and appointed a Fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland in recognition of her contribution to the development of the Institute and the public relations profession in Ireland.

Neasa leads the RPS Project Communications team which works with clients to engage with stakeholders and communities through the planning, construction and commissioning stages of infrastructure projects. She recently explained in Business & Finance Magazine how our dedicated team of communications professionals with engineering and technical backgrounds have been delivering engaging infrastructure projects for our clients.

“Ignoring communications or thinking you can develop infrastructure by concentrating on getting planning permission without engaging with the people who will be affected by your project, is no longer acceptable,” says Neasa. “Communities and other stakeholders should be engaged with throughout, starting at the earliest opportunity when infrastructure projects are planned for their area; not just because the EU Aarhus Convention requires it – and it does – but because people can stop projects being built if they don’t appreciate the need for them and if they don’t have trust and confidence in the project promoters. On the other hand, we have so many examples of how informed stakeholders can enhance projects, thanks to trust that is gained over time.”

Our communications people have backgrounds in construction, engineering, planning and environmental science. This allows them to appreciate and understand all aspects of infrastructure development. With their technical knowledge and experience, the team can interrogate issues deeply and develop robust content and focused strategies. This technical insight and expertise provides RPS with an edge to reach audiences with varying levels of knowledge.

Infrastructure projects in which RPS’ communications experts have played an important role include Shell Corrib Gas Project, the M3 Motorway, the M50 Upgrade, Shanganagh Bray Wastewater Treatment project, Ballymun Regeneration, Dublin Waste to Energy, Greater Dublin Drainage, and energy projects for Coillte and EirGrid.