Director - Planning and Environment
RPS provided planning and environmental advice to Southern Gas Networks Plc (SGN) in relation to their planning application for a new gas pipeline in the west of Northern Ireland. The project involves construction and operation of 78kms high pressure and 107kms intermediate pressure gas pipelines which will extend the natural gas network into the west of Northern Ireland to the towns of Coalisland, Cookstown, Derrylin, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Magherafelt, Omagh and Strabane. We have provided services in: route selection including consideration of engineering, land ownership and environmental considerations; planning strategy; community consultation, EIA, pre-application discussions with the planning authorities; preparation and submission of the planning application; monitoring of the planning application through to approval. We are now engaged in assisting the client and appointed contractors in respect of discharge of conditions, dealing with deviations to the route and advising on compensation claims.
The project raised complex environmental and legal challenges in respect of the implications of new planning legislation and emerging case law regarding planning and EIA requirements. The geographical extent of the application site had implications for pre-application community engagement as well as the potential impact on farming activities, environmental considerations, engineering feasibility and cost considerations. Constraints included terrain, ground conditions, motorway & other road crossings, water crossings, planning & environmental designations, archaeology, a need for some flexibility in the actual location of the pipeline and a multitude of consent processes to be undertaken in addition to planning, including HRA. The project was set an extremely challenging programme for delivery and it was therefore critical that route selection and agreements with 2000 affected landowners were concluded efficiently with minimal risk of challenge or lands tribunal cases, and that statutory consultees were comfortable with the proposal to avoid Further Environmental Information requests.
RPS utilised our knowledge and experience of planning and environmental legislation to develop a project strategy including a methodology for route selection that comprehensively assessed all material considerations and fed into a successful pre-application community consultation process. Our integrated design team liaised closely with expert land officers to minimise potential conflict with farming and other operations while providing a planning corridor that allowed flexibility in the actual position of the pipeline. Our multi-disciplinary team made effective use of the Pre-Application Discussions (PAD) Process to ensure that all relevant statutory agencies understood the project and our proposed approach in addressing critical environmental considerations. As a result of this effective coordinated approach to project delivery and community consultation, there were only 7 objections submitted to the application out of 1629 neighbours notified and there were no requests for Further Environmental Information. The project obtained planning approval within 6 months of submission.
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