Archived News

    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.

    RPS Leads Southwest Scotland Flood Strategy

    10 December 2015

    RPS Leads Southwest Scotland Flood Strategy

    Loch Lomond from Duncryne Hill. 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. 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 Designers for A9 Dualling Kincraig to Dalraddy in Scotland

    01 December 2015

    RPS Designers for A9 Dualling Kincraig to Dalraddy in Scotland

    Aerial View – Extracted from RPS Scheme Model

    RPS has been appointed as Lead Designer by a joint venture of Wills Bros Civil Engineering and John Paul Construction for the A9 Kincraig to Dalraddy Design and Build Road Scheme for Transport Scotland.

    At the project sod turning ceremony on 10th September, Infrastructure, Investment and Cities Secretary, Keith Brown said the start of the work was “an important milestone in what will be one of the largest and most challenging infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history.”

    The A9 is a vital strategic route linking central Scotland to Inverness, the Highlands and Islands. This scheme is the first section of the ambitious A9 Dualling Programme, which will deliver approx. 130 km of upgraded road between Perth and Inverness by 2025. The £36m contract for almost 9 km of dualling is expected to be completed by summer 2017.

    A multidisciplinary team from RPS offices across Ireland and the UK will deliver the project:

    Highways, geotechnical and civil design (Galway)

    Structural and bridge design (Cork)

    Environmental Surveys, design services and Ecological Clerk of Works services (Edinburgh)

    Archaeological monitoring and advice (Edinburgh)

    Landscaping design and supervision (Belfast)

    Principal Designer under CDM regulations (Newark)

    The project is a clear demonstration of RPS capacity to deliver major multidisciplinary projects, using complimentary skills across many offices. It will be the second major DB project that RPS has delivered in Scotland, building on our design of the £400 million M8/M73/M74 Upgrade DBFO which involves people from eight RPS offices in Ireland and UK.

    SNH raises wind farm avoidance rate for red-throated diver

    25 November 2015

    SNH raises wind farm avoidance rate for red-throated diver

    In the face of mounting evidence, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is up-dating 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

    For more information on RPS' Ornithology and Ecology services, please contact:

    Dr. Simon Zisman
    Operational Director
    T: +44(0)131 555 5011

    RPS Tops the Planning Tables

    24 November 2015

    RPS Tops the Planning Tables

    RPS is pleased to share news of its recent success, taking the top spot in a number of categories in Planning Magazine's 2015 Consultancy Survey.

    The survey, completed by Planning Magazine, includes responses from over 160 planning practices operating across the UK.

    "The growth we have achieved over the last 12 months is a testament to the quality of our Planning teams throughout the UK and the confidence of our clients. This can be seen across all our main sectors in the results of this year's Planning Consultancy survey” advises David Cowan, Managing Director for Planning and Environment at RPS.

    About RPS' Planning Services

    RPS provides an unparalleled planning consultancy service advising on the preparation, submission and negotiation of planning applications and consents. We work with public and private sector clients across the UK and Ireland, providing strategic and project level planning advice.

    Since acquiring CgMs Consulting in 2014, RPS has cemented its position as one of the UK and Ireland's leading planning and environmental consultants.

    For more information on our Planning Services, download our Planning Capability Statement here.

    More about RPS

    RPS is a world leading multi-disciplinary planning and environmental consultancy with unrivalled knowledge and experience supporting clients throughout the development process, including planning inception, design, implementation and final completion stages. For more information, visit our website.

    New-build flats in image: Perry
    RPS CgMs participates in discussions with Special Advisor on Housing and Planning Policy

    18 September 2015

    RPS CgMs participates in discussions with Special Advisor on Housing and Planning Policy


    On September 14th, Karen Jones, Planning Director at RPS CgMs visited No.10 to participate in discussions with Alex Morton, Special Advisor on Housing and Planning Policy as part of the RTPI Major Consultancies Group.
    Image credit: RTPI

    Alex is the driving force for a number of Government initiatives for increasing the delivery of houses; for instance he argued for the conversion to homes for vacant offices and retail premises, and has a long held opinion that if local people control the quality of new housing, opposition to it will fall away. The debate at the meeting was focused on delivery, mainly of houses, and exposed some of the more radical thinking of Government, especially in relation to removing as much red tape and thus ‘barriers’ to getting things done.

    “It was incredibly useful to meet one of the main people behind these initiatives and to particularly hear the low esteem that the planning regime is presently held in by the upper echelons, particularly the Treasury” advises Karen. “It made us acutely aware of the need for high level discussions and influence, and Alex opened up future opportunities to meet with Greg Clark and Brendon Lewis”.

    For more information contact Karen Jones via

    RoSPA Gold for RPS following Fifth Gold Standard Win

    10 September 2015

    RoSPA Gold for RPS following Fifth Gold Standard Win

    Image: Gill McKenzie with the RoSPA Gold award certificate.

    RPS wins Gold five years running for Health and Safety excellence.

    RPS Planning & Development in the UK has been awarded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Gold medal celebrating five consecutive annual Gold standard awards from the society.

    RoSPA’s award scheme, which turns 60 next year, is open to all businesses internationally and recognises the highest levels of Health and Safety good practice being consistently met and surpassed across management systems both in client engagement and the workplace environment.

    ‘It takes achieving and maintaining these levels, then continuing to build upon them, creating an exemplary system that pushes the goals of high attainment in Health and Safety standards to achieve the recognition of a RoSPA Gold medal, so this is really something fantastic to receive and to underline the quality of RPS’ services to our clients, says RPS Health & Safety Manager Gill McKenzie ‘Well done to all our staff for ensuring we meet such exceptional standards.’

    RoSPA’s non-competitive Health and Safety award grades achievement at merit, bronze, silver and gold levels. Organisations that maintain exceptional standards for consecutive years can receive the Gold Medal, President’s Award or Order of Distinction.

    RPS Secures Green Light for Straw Pellet Production Plant

    04 September 2015

    RPS Secures Green Light for Straw Pellet Production Plant

    Image credit: Ely cathedral. Bell

    On 5th August 2015, leading planning and environmental consultancy RPS secured planning permission for a straw pellet production plant in Ely.

    This will be the first of five plants to be built by Pelco. A planning application for the next plant is anticipated towards the end of the year with others to follow. The sites are primarily within arable crop growing areas with a wide catchment of potential straw suppliers. The sites also have good transport links in line with the emphasis on delivering pellets by rail. The Ely plant will see 150,000 tonnes of straw per annum turned into a pellet that will be taken off site by train and converted into energy.

    The 17m high building and 47m high rail loading silo is carefully designed in response to the challenges posed by its setting. The site is bounded on three sides by the Ely Pits and Meadows SSSI, it has a Conservation Area and Country Park located to the North West and Ely Cathedral in view.

    “Strong and effective project management were vital to securing a favourable outcome for this project” advises Maureen Darrie, Director of Planning at RPS. “To address the challenges raised by the sites location we ensured we maintained an open and proactive dialogue with key stakeholders throughout the process and as a result were able to secure planning permission in just 18 weeks”.

    Proposals for the site incorporate bio-diversity enhancements and long term management strategies to benefit the wider setting and the SSSI. Permanent and temporary construction jobs will be created at the plant and long term contracts will be secured in the farming and haulage industries with an overall investment over the life of the plant in excess of £100m.

    RPS Designs DP World London Gateway Logistics Centre

    18 August 2015

    RPS Designs DP World London Gateway Logistics Centre


    Work on phase one of the London Gateway Logistics Centre, a state-of-the-art, common user distribution centre is complete - with the first clients settled in and the first cargo having passed through the high-spec building in South Essex.

    Located at DP World London Gateway – a world class, market-centric port-hub – the Logistics Centre, designed by RPS Architects and Civil and Structural Engineers, is a new concept and the first warehouse to be built on what will eventually be one of the largest logistics parks of its kind in Europe.

    Being built in two phases, the Logistics Centre provides tailored logistics solutions for import and export companies using the DP World London Gateway Port.

    The Logistics Centre currently totals 206,000sq ft in warehouse and office space, with 180,000sq ft of warehousing and 26,000sq ft of office space. The building will eventually span an area of 386,000sq ft.

    Import Services Ltd is operating the centre on behalf of DP World, offering services such as devanning, cross-docking, storage and added value activities such as high-volume order processing and pick-and-pack. Businesses of all sizes can get a taste of the centre’s state-of-the-art build and design, coupled with its location on London Gateway Logistics Park.

    It is built to the BREEAM “Very Good” standard and is equipped with solar panels on the roof – adding to its ability to be partially self-sufficient. “The coastal path is located in a remote coastal environment, at the base of 60m high cliffs. The shallow water depths and exposed location precluded the use of marine plant for the project. Therefore the design of the structures and handrailing facilitates segmental/lightweight construction where possible and minimises the number of heavy lifts required over the cliff edge”.

    The 9.25 million sq ft London Gateway Logistics Park is located adjacent to the UK’s newest, most advanced deep-sea container terminal – on the doorstep of the largest consumer market in Western Europe.

    Open for just over 18 months, DP World London Gateway Port is bringing previously unseen reliability to the supply chain: in 600 days of trading, the port is yet to close its gates to trucks. This is due to its sophisticated technology that enables operations to continue safely in weather which forces other ports to close. “It showcases the shoreline, it showcases the people of Northern Ireland and it is just a great facility and a great new attraction to have, it complements what we already have on the Causeway Coastal route. We have the Giants Causeway, we have Carrick-a-rede, we have the shore road and the coastal road”.

    DP World London Gateway Supply Chain Manager Chris Evans, said: “The London Gateway Logistics Centre is a hugely attractive proposition. Located next to a high performing, state-of-the-art port and on the doorstep of more than two-thirds of the UK’s consumer market, the Logistics Centre enables businesses to add London Gateway to their distribution networks as a strategic de-vanning and collection point. This is particularly beneficial for those serving the South East and currently facing issues of empty backhaul. With the rapidly changing multi-channel retail landscape, the introduction of a multiple- user facility at London Gateway Logistics Park will support increased agility and flexibility of customers’ supply chains.”

    RPS wins Public Sector Planning and Environment Award for Dublin Waste Strategy & Poolbeg project

    27 July 2015

    RPS wins Public Sector Planning and Environment Award for Dublin Waste Strategy & Poolbeg project


    RPS has been named winner of the 'Planning and Environment Award' in the Excellence in Business Awards by Public Sector Magazine in Dublin this week.

    Pictured at the award ceremony are Gerry Carty MD RPS, Michael Phillips Dublin City Engineer/Assistant Chief Executive, Carol Connery Technical Director RPS, James Nolan Executive Engineer Dublin City Council and P J Rudden Director RPS

    RPS and our client Dublin City Council accepted the award for the 'achievements of the Integrated Dublin Waste Strategy and Poolbeg Project.' The full implementation of the strategy will mean practically no landfilling of waste from Dublin post 2017 with the commissioning of the Poolbeg project.

    The waste to energy project at Poolbeg is currently under construction and will process some 600,000 tonnes of waste per annum generating enough electricity for 80,000 homes as well as district heating potential for upwards on 50,000 homes.

    The project is part of the integrated waste management strategy recommended to the four Dublin Authorities by an international consortium of consultants led by RPS and adopted in 1998. The strategy set up new waste awareness measures and introduced maximum recycling for all Dublin households using source separation into green, brown and black bins. The green and brown bin waste goes for recycling and energy will be generated from the black bin waste at the Poolbeg project. The strategy represents a 20 year vision which now looks about to be realised thanks to the implementation efforts of Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin City Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. The strategy was formulated after an extensive period of public consultation and stakeholder engagement where the ‘public call for action’ was for waste prevention, greatly increased recycling and minimum landfill.

    'The original aim of the strategy was to reduce landfill of Dublin waste from 90% down to 15% within 20 years but we now believe that 'zero landfill' can be achieved by maximising both recycling and energy recovery. This is totally in accordance with the most recent Irish and EU waste policies making better use of our waste resources and supporting the transition to a circular economy. Waste is now recognised as a resource which should neither be landfilled nor exported but processed to create new materials, energy, enterprise and jobs at home' stated P J Rudden, RPS Director who was responsible for the original waste strategy formulation and the planning and environment aspects of the Poolbeg project.

    'We are very proud of this award as it recognises over 15 years of concentrated effort by RPS assisting the local authorities to make real change in how the capital's waste is managed more sustainably. We didn't expect it but are nevertheless grateful to see recognition of the success of the waste strategy by a combination of public and private enterprise to achieve the ambitious recycling and recovery goals. As a result Dublin is fast becoming a leading European city in sustainable waste management' he concluded.

    RPS has a national and international track record in environmental management. We managed the 'rx3 - Rethink Recycle Remake' project for five years (2008-2013) for Department of Environment Community and Local Government winning the Public Sector Green Award in 2013. Other recent environmental assignments include authoring the 'Guidance on Green Procurement for the Public Sector' completed for the EPA in 2014 and the consultancy of the European Green Capital Award Secretariat for the EU Commission across the 28 Member States since 2010 with winning cities Stockholm, Hamburg, Vitoria Gasteiz, Nantes, Copenhagen, Bristol, Ljubljana and Essen to date. This year RPS also assisted all of Ireland's local authorities in the formulation of the third generation of Regional Waste Plans (2015 – 2021) which were recently adopted based on 'circular economy' and 'zero landfill' concepts.

    Fixing the Foundations: Planning Reform July 2015

    14 July 2015

    Fixing the Foundations: Planning Reform July 2015


    On Friday 10 July, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, presented ‘Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’, a new report outlining, amongst others, proposed reforms to the planning system (section 9).

    The most significant proposed change is the introduction of a new zonal system which would provide automatic planning permission on sites listed in registers of brownfield land. It is proposed that this reform will cut out red tape and help bring forward housing on currently underused brownfield land subject to approval on a number of, as yet unknown, technical details.

    The Government has also addressed the issue of local authorities without up-to-date Local Plans by stating that where these are not produced, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government would intervene and arrange for a plan to be written in consultation with local people.

    An additional Permitted Development right is proposed for London which will allow upwards extensions of a limited number of storeys up to the height of an adjoining building, provided neighbours do not object.

    A new elected Mayor for Greater Manchester was announced, who will have similar powers as the Mayor of London. Mayoral powers have also been proposed to be increased with the Mayor of London having the authority to call-in housing developments of greater than 50 units in an effort to speed up housing delivery.

    There are also proposals to legislate to allow major infrastructure projects with an element of housing to apply through the NSIP regime. Tightening of targets on the determination of applications and dispute resolution on Section 106 agreements are also proposed.

    To read more click Here

    For further information, please contact:

    Midlands & North
    Tim Partridge
    T: +44 (0) 121 213 5500

    South East
    Christopher LeCointe
    T: +44 (0) 1235 821 888

    Erica Mortimer
    T: +44 (0) 20 7583 6767

    South West & Wales
    Darren Parker
    T: +44 (0) 29 2066 8662

    Iconic Gobbins Cliff Path Restoration Completes Soon

    08 July 2015

    Iconic Gobbins Cliff Path Restoration Completes Soon


    The iconic Gobbins Cliff path in Islandmagee, Co Antrim is nearing completion after a £6.4m path restoration and visitor centre building project.

    The Gobbins is an area of basalt sea cliffs, up to 60m in height, on the east coast of Northern Ireland.

    The Gobbins path was originally designed by visionary engineer Berkeley Dean Wise and built in 1902, and in its heyday attracted more visitors than the Giant's Causeway but fell into disrepair following the Second World War and was closed to the public in 1954. It is being reinstated at a cost of £4.2m, with an associated visitor centre that is combined with a local community centre built at a cost of £2.2m. Larne Borough Council provided more than half of the funding for the scheme, the balance is grant funding from EU INTERREG IV and Ulster Garden Villages. RPS were appointed by Larne Borough Council to lead an Integrated Consulting Team to undertake the project management, design, planning application, procurement, environmental monitoring and contract administration of the two construction contracts for the reconstruction of the Gobbins Coastal Path and construction of the visitor centre.

    The name ‘Gobbins’ comes from the Irish ‘An Gobain’, meaning ‘the points of rock’. Legends associated with the Gobbins include mythical figures such as Gobbin Saor, a terrifying giant who lived in the cliffs. The project will revive the original Gobbins cliff path, installed in 1902 by Berkeley Dean Wise, and consists of a series of spectacular bridges and gantries.

    The concept design for the Gobbins project was completed by RPS' Mark McConnell and Sinead Henry which involved the restoration of a 750m long coastal path, including the provision of approx. 23 stainless steel structures incorporating bridges which range from 5m to 35m in span, hand railing and walkway structures inside a cave known as The Tunnel. The team sympathetically designed the iconic 17m Hoop Bridge at the Man‘O’War sea stack site and also the suspension bridge at Gordon's Leap to replicate the original 1902 Berkeley Dean Wise designs. During the design and construction stage RPS engineers utilised their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to capture video and photography which enabled them to carry out cost effective site inspections.

    The project is located within The Gobbins ASSI (Area of Special Scientific Interest) that is designated due to the maritime plant communities, the large seabird colonies and the unique geology found at the cliffs. Working within an ASSI- RPS Planning Director Raymond Holbeach and his team completed detailed ecological surveys and liaised closely with NIEA to ensure the proposed works did not impact on the qualifying features of the Gobbins ASSI. Mitigation measures were agreed with NIEA in advance of the submission of the planning application. Such measures included limited works along the path between March-August to avoid any impact on the breeding seabird colony (including kittiwakes and razorbills of which 1.6% and 1.1% of the Ireland population are found at the Gobbins Cliffs), no netting of the cliffs, and controlled scaling of the cliff face with an ornithologist present.

    One of the key challenges was access explains Project Manager, Morgan Haylett– “The coastal path is located in a remote coastal environment, at the base of 60m high cliffs. The shallow water depths and exposed location precluded the use of marine plant for the project. Therefore the design of the structures and handrailing facilitates segmental/lightweight construction where possible and minimises the number of heavy lifts required over the cliff edge”.

    The Gobbins Coastal path is one of two RPS projects that have been shortlisted for the UK wide British Construction Industry Award, Civil Engineering Project of the Year – the awards are to be held in London this coming October.

    Tourism NI's Kathleen McBride said: “It showcases the shoreline, it showcases the people of Northern Ireland and it is just a great facility and a great new attraction to have, it complements what we already have on the Causeway Coastal route. We have the Giants Causeway, we have Carrick-a-rede, we have the shore road and the coastal road”.

    “This is a fantastic facility in Islandmagee and a fantastic attraction.”.

    The Gobbins Coastal Path is scheduled for completion in summer 2015.

    Panorama of Gobbins Cliff path restoration in progress earlier this year.

    RPS Appointed to Major M4 Corridor Development in UK

    14 April 2015

    RPS Appointed to Major M4 Corridor Development in UK


    RPS is appointed to provide environmental assessment and mitigation expertise in the development of the £750m Welsh Government M4 Corridor around Newport.

    M4 Junction 29, looking west © Copyright Gareth James and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    Leading environmental consultancy RPS is pleased to announce that it has been appointed, along with its design partners Atkins and Arup, to provide environmental assessment and mitigation expertise for the Welsh Government's £750m project to develop the M4 Corridor around Newport. As part of the ECI (Early Contractor Involvement) project, RPS will provide input to the contractor joint venture of Costain, VINCI Construction Grands Projets and Taylor Woodrow.

    The proposals would include 24km of new motorway and a 2.5 km long cable-stayed viaduct crossing of the River Usk, as well as major remodelling of M4 junctions 23 and 29. The project would form part of the strategic roads network, and deliver government aims for a more efficient, safer and sustainable transport network, supporting and encouraging long-term prosperity in the region.

    Scheme development work will commence immediately, leading up to an anticipated Public Local Inquiry in winter 2016/7. Upon successful completion of the statutory processes the second stage of the ECI work construction could start in spring 2018.

    RPS Director Peter Ireland, environmental coordinator for the project said: “Building on our recent success with Costain and Atkins in delivering Section 2 of the Heads of Valleys scheme through the statutory process for the Welsh Government and the Church Village bypass which opened in 2010, we are delighted to be able to bring that expertise to this most interesting and challenging project.”

    You may also be interested in this in our news section: Dualling of the Heads of the Valleys – A465 Gilwern to Brynmawr (12th March 2015).

    Dualling of the Heads of the Valleys

    12 March 2015

    Dualling of the Heads of the Valleys


    RPS delivers multidisciplinary services for A465 Gilwern to Brynmawr road scheme, Wales.

    View over Clydach for SO2312
    The view across the Clydach gorge with the A465 Heads of the Valleys road snaking its way up the valley.
    © Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    The dualling of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road scheme is a central part of the ambitious but confident Heads of the Valleys regeneration strategy developed by the Welsh Government and five South Wales local authorities. Starting in 2006, the strategy plans to tackle root causes of economic inactivity in the region by delivering long-term effective results to improve transport infrastructure and thus accessibility and boost industry, tourism and public confidence.

    The plan is to dual six sections – a 40km stretch – of this important route that connects Swansea and the M4 to the A40 and M50 route to the Midlands. A detailed schedule of works was set out in the Welsh Government's 2010 National Transport Plan. Sections One and Four of the scheme were completed in 2008 and 2004 respectively, and Section Three is currently underway – scheduled to complete in June 2015.

    Section Two of the scheme, an 8.1km stretch between the Glanbaiden and Brynmawr roundabouts with a total cost in the order of £190m, was regarded as the most environmentally challenging section of the route. It has 16 major structures, over 11.5km of retaining walls and excavation of more than 1.2 million m³ of material. This section runs along the edge of the South Wales Coalfield syncline. The terrain surrounding the existing highway and proposed dual carriageway is extremely challenging for road development – with an undulating topography located in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The surrounding landscape also incorporates several internationally and nationally designated sites of environmental (Natura 2000 and SSSIs) and heritage interest. A predominant feature of the section is the protected Clydach Gorge which contains a number of Scheduled Monuments and the Mynydd Llangatwg limestone caves SSSI (protected bat roosts). The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site is also close by.

    In order to address these unique environmental challenges Costain chose RPS at the tender stage to lead the environmental design and assessment in the team presented to the Welsh Government. Following the award of the contract, RPS was tasked with the delivery of a comprehensive and sensitive EIA and working in close consultation with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Natural Resources Wales and Cadw (Welsh Government advisors on heritage). RPS produced an Environmental Statement and, in accordance with Regulation 61 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, an Assessment of Implications for European Sites (AIES) was also prepared to identify the possible impacts of the published scheme on three Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).

    Thorough scoping of the required assessments was critical to delivery of the project programme. RPS’ Scoping Report set out specific environmental assessment methodologies and potential mitigation measures recommended for integration into the scheme design. Baseline data was obtained by compiling and reviewing available data and/or undertaking baseline surveys to generate site specific data. Where required, the methodology for the surveys was agreed with the relevant stakeholder.

    RPS' studies included cumulative impact assessments examining multiple environmental effects on single receptors and other parts of the project using a matrix-themed approach. In order to ensure the minimum impact was visited upon surrounding sites of major environmental and historic value, RPS designed detailed mitigation measures to provide visual screening, low noise surfacing and noise barriers, and measures to compensate for the loss of bat foraging areas and a thorough Construction Environmental Management Plan. Particular consideration was also required where the road widening was proposed above the Mynydd Llangatwg caves where the route would sit between five and ten metres above the cave roofs, some of which were also bat roosts, and within 100 metres of their main entrance necessitating intricate planning for exceptionally delicate piling work.
    The Environmental Statement and AIES were published alongside the Draft Orders in October 2013.

    As a major multidisciplinary consultancy RPS was well placed to deliver the wide range of professional services, bringing together targeted expertise from a spectrum of dedicated resources. For A465 Section Two we assembled a team across five of our UK offices to advise on archaeology and built heritage, air quality and climate impacts, ecology and biodiversity, landscape and visual impact issues, planning services including land use and community & leisure, health impact, Habitats Regulations, geology and contaminated land matters and hydrology. RPS also appointed external specialists where specific species and/or local knowledge added value. Seven of the Welsh Government's expert witnesses at the Public Inquiry in 2014 were from RPS.

    Having a long-standing relationship with Costain benefitted delivery of the scheme as our previous project experience with the contractor has established an effective understanding and methodology. This was further enhanced by the co-location of the RPS environmental coordinator with the design team and contractor in Cardiff – facilitating closer familiarity with the design process and a more hands-on accessibility to discuss and resolve environmental queries and design issues.

    At the Public Inquiry in 2014 the Inspector noted the proposals as acceptable and that ‘there was an abundance of evidence to show that the scheme would comply with local, regional and National Policy for Transport and the Economy’. Although ‘Landscape and environmental policies would not all be advanced by the scheme’, both were ‘vigorously addressed’ and demonstrated ‘as part of the development of the scheme, with clear strategies to make its impact acceptable’. The strategies were noted as ‘essential in order to minimize the adverse impact on the Brecon Beacons National Park, in the Clydach Gorge and [on] the Blaenavon World Heritage Site that would otherwise occur.’

    Primary construction on the A465 Section Two has recently commenced in 2015 with RPS continuing to lead the environmental work including ecological site clearance, archaeological investigations, land surveys and detailed design of landscape and environmental mitigation. The works are expected to be completed in 2018.

    This case study was written for and also appears in the ENDS Environmental Consultancy Market Review 2015 which is sponsored by RPS.

    RPS Delivers Masterclass on Infrastructure Planning Applications

    26 February 2015

    RPS Delivers Masterclass on Infrastructure Planning Applications


    On 10th-11th February Pinsent Masons Offices in London was the venue for Waterfront’s annual ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) Applications Master Class 2015’. The event, sponsored by RPS and CgMs, provided in-depth guidance to 190 delegates from a wide range of companies developing UK infrastructure on how to apply for development consent orders using the Planning Act 2008. Across the two days, all the processes and key requirements were considered through detailed presentations and case studies on each stage leading to the grant of approval for a nationally significant infrastructure project.

    David Cowan, Managing Director for Planning and Environment at RPS, and Simone Wilding, Head of National Infrastructure Case Management at the Planning Inspectorate, delivered the first session of the event which comprised an overview of the current issues in the consents regime and an update on changes being made this year to the application process. David communicated RPS’ in depth knowledge of the regime as a highly skilled practitioner, speaking from experience. He provided an insightful overview into how well the current regime is working, including a useful analysis of timescales, emerging trends and key issues. Using comparisons of the current NSIP regime with previous consent processes and other alternatives still in use, he concluded that the current regime was working well in terms of delivering consents as well as being more open, transparent and fair and identified some areas where further improvements could be made. He also gave his thoughts on the future of the current process following the General Election in May. On Day Two, David was also able to give a helpful perspective on the objectives of the Preliminary Environmental Information stage from his involvement in consultations on the original drafting of the current regime and regulations in 2009.

    The first day continued to focus on the current and proposed changes to the Development Consent Order process, preparation of an application and different sectors’ experience of the application and Examination process. The second day focussed on a range of case studies on the co-ordination of the Environmental Impact Assessment for NSIPs and the preparation for the Examination stage and hearings.

    Over the two days a number of speakers from a variety of sectors presented to the delegates from infrastructure providers, scheme promoters, local government, statutory consultees, law firms and consultants. The presentations highlighted the importance of early pre-application engagement with all stakeholders and the requirement for the scheme promoter to provide a concise application that responds to all issues raised through the consultation stages and during the examination. One of the most important matters covered included the challenge of altering an application after it has been submitted and how to build a degree of flexibility into the proposal to manage the tension between commercial requirements and certainty. Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons gave a particularly useful presentation on this point and former IPC/PINS Inspector Jan Bessell, now also of Pinsent Masons, gave an insight to the Examining Authority’s perspective.

    David Cowan has worked on a total of eight NSIPs at all stages of preparation since the current regime was established under the Planning Act 2008. He is currently advising SMartWind on the Hornsea offshore wind farm DCOs and Gatwick Airport Ltd (who were also in attendance at the conference, as were Heathrow) on their proposal for a second runway, which is currently the subject of the Airports Commission consultation.

    The event was attended by project promoters including Scottish Power, Vattenfall, EoN, Tidal Lagoon Power, the HA, Network Rail, TfL, National Grid, Gaelectric, Horizon Nuclear Power, Western Power and Wheelabrator and it was therefore an excellent opportunity for RPS/CgMs to sponsor the event which brought a number of industry professionals together.

    RPS staff involved in promoting DCO applications are happy to share their experience and lessons learned with project promoters and those thinking of promoting projects. If you would like to hear more contact David Cowan: +44 (0) 1235 821 888; or marked FAO: David Cowan reference DCO Applications to:

    Guernsey Airport Highly Commended at Industry Awards

    17 February 2015

    Guernsey Airport Highly Commended at Industry Awards


    RPS' Guernsey Airport Rehabilitation Project was ‘Highly Commended’ in the “International Project of the Year” category at the recent British Construction Industry (BCI) Awards.

    The BCI Awards are the longest standing, most rigorously judged and highly prized in the UK construction industry celebrating construction and engineering excellence across the globe. Now in its 27th year, the Awards Evening held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London on the 8th October 2014, was the most notable to date, attended by more than 1200 of the industry elite. RPS was represented by Jonathan Green, the Project Director for the scheme. Also attending was Guernsey Airport’s Director, Colin Le Ray and members from the contractor: Lagan Construction.

    The project’s recognition by the industry and the awards judges, in conjunction with the New Civil Engineer and the Institution of Civil Engineers, further strengthens the team’s achievements in dealing appropriately with the complexities involved in the safe and timely delivery of the significant improvements to the airport. This has without doubt secured the integrity of the island’s lifeline for many years to come.

    Colin Le Ray (Airport Director) stated “The fact that the project was shortlisted for an international award is something the project team and the island can be justifiably proud of. Ours was a complex, high profile project and has been delivered to the very best of our ability. The team we have worked with, from designer to contractor, have worked very hard to make this project a success and we are certain this is one of the reasons why we were shortlisted for this prestigious award.Aside from the obvious improvements that the reconstruction of the airport has provided for the island, the fact that we were Highly Commended in this national awards ceremony has reflected the significance of what we have achieved.”

    Apart from the 18 category winners only seven projects were Highly Commended and the Guernsey project was the only one in its category to receive this. In the International category five projects were shortlisted and the worthy winner was the Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project in Pakistan. The other shortlisted projects comprised the Etihad Airways Training Extension in Abu Dhabi; the Perez Art Museum in Miami and the Siemens Middle East Headquarters.

    The RPS team who designed, supervised and project managed the scheme are delighted by this accolade.

    London City Airport Given Green Light for Expansion

    10 February 2015

    London City Airport Given Green Light for Expansion


    On Tuesday 3rd February the London Borough of Newham (LBN) resolved to grant planning permission for the £200m City Airport Development Programme (CADP) in the Royal Docks, East London - a project in which RPS has been integrally involved for several years.

    The proposals comprise the eastern and western extension of the terminal building, an 800m double height passenger pier, seven new aircraft stands and a parallel taxiway, a reconfigured and enlarged forecourt, car parks, a hotel, energy centre and other landside facilities. The stands and taxiway are to be built on a 7.5ha concrete deck over the adjoining King George V Dock.

    This expansion of the airport will generate an additional £0.75bn GVA per year to the local and regional economy, create 1500 new jobs and see a doubling in passengers by 2023. The new infrastructure will also enable the airport to service a projected 50% increase in flights in the next six years (to 111,000 ATMs by 2021) as well as to accommodate the introduction of a new generation of Code C aircraft which are quieter and more fuel efficient.

    As the lead environmental consultants on the project, RPS coordinated the EIA, health impact and sustainability assessments supporting the planning application. In addition, our specialist technical teams completed the impact assessments for ecology & biodiversity, flood risk, heritage, townscape & visual effects, lighting, contamination and waste; as well as drafting the project specific Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) and BREEAM assessment.

    RPS’ Project Director David Thomson commented:

    “We are delighted that London City Airport has obtained approval for its future expansion and modernisation programme. It has been a hard won consent, with the CADP proposals and supporting assessments being subject to an unprecedented level of scrutiny over a period of 18 months since the planning application was submitted. In particular, the Environmental Statement, Health Impact Assessment and supporting addendums produced by RPS have been thoroughly vetted by the London Borough of Newham and the Greater London Authority, their own consultants and legal advisors, the statutory authorities, members of the public and a plethora of interest groups. I am pleased to say that the EIA process and all other aspects of our work for the Airport have been found to be technically and legally robust.”

    Revised visualisation of the completed CADP as seen from the south-west at lower level.