A screening opinion, in order to check if a full environmental impact assessment is required and which would precede a planning application, has been lodged with Northumberland County Council by the Newcastle office of the consulting structural and civil engineer firm Fairhurst.
It relates to a proposal for ‘the development of an advance manufacturing and technology facility’ at the former Blyth power station site near East Sleekburn and Cambois.
The document submitted to the local authority says that ‘the main building is considered to be a 43,000 sq m typical industrial warehouse and will include three vertical structures at approximately 30.5m, 41m and 126.5m’, while the scheme also includes parking for 200 staff and visitors, as well as HGV parking and external storage of carousels.
The area has remained derelict since the power station was demolished; the last chimneys came down in 2003.
The Ash Barge Dock is directly to the east of the site boundary for the latest application, which covers an area of around 14 hectares.
A separate bid to widen, deepen and dredge the dock was approved by the county council in July 2017, with the aim of allowing larger vessels to berth as part of a package of measures to secure jobs and economic growth and ensure all available development land in Cambois is connected to the Port of Blyth.
The site in question is described as Northumberland Energy Park Phase 1 (NEP1) as part of the Energy Central project – ‘a premier, deep-water energy base, delivered through a unique partnership between Advance Northumberland and the Port of Blyth’.
The partnership has ‘a selection of strategic land development sites across the Blyth Estuary, identified as prime locations for energy-sector businesses looking to relocate and grow in Northumberland’.
The site is currently subject to the East Sleekburn Local Development Order, which allows certain developments to go ahead without the need for a planning application – mainly for office or industrial use, but this is set to expire next month.
However, it remains part of the area’s Enterprise Zone, which provides business rate discounts and certain tax reliefs for firms setting up there.
At the county council’s cabinet meeting in December, members received a report in private which updated them ‘on emerging investment interest and associated economic outputs at the NEP1 Enterprise Zone at East Sleekburn’.
While the screening opinion report does not provide many details of the proposed development, it states: ‘To the south of the site are the National Grid and NEDL substations, which remain operational and have a right of way through the site for access.
‘A proposed landscaped area one hectare to the north of the site separates the site from the nearest residential receptors on Wilson Avenue, which are located immediately beyond the site boundary.
‘To the south of the site lie the grade II-listed West Staithes, although the majority of the staithes have been removed, some posts are visible.’
‘The main vehicular access points are sited to the north-west and north-east of the site, which provides access to Brock Lane.’
The report adds that the site has good highway links and that associated vehicular movements on the local road network would not be for long distances, due to the good connections the proposal site has to the A189.
It explains that ‘the proposal is likely to export the majority of associated goods and services by river’ with any shipping movements being appropriately controlled and that ‘the nature of the proposals is not one that will generate significant levels of HGV movements’.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service