Agenda item

Proposed London Resort and the Duty of the Applicant to Consult the Council on the Proposal

Summary:

 

The proposal for the London Resort leisure and entertainment complex is to be dealt with as a planning application to be determined by the Secretary of State as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).  As such, it is subject to legislation under the Planning Act 2008, which is distinct to that for applications determined directly by the Council. The applicant, London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), is required under section 42 of the 2008 Act to consult the Borough on its emerging proposal before being formally submitted to the Secretary of State, with the Council being a statutory consultee. The closing date for responses was 21 September 2020.  The Council’s response, agreed under delegated powers, was submitted in time to meet this deadline but this did not allow for the response to be presented to Cabinet in advance.

 

Recommendation:

 

That the Council’s response to the consultation as set out in the letter and comments attached at Appendices A-C to the report, be noted.

Minutes:

The Head of Regeneration informed Members that because the proposed London Resort leisure and entertainment complex development in Swanscombe was deemed to be a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) the planning application would be determined by the Secretary of State under the Planning Act 2008 rather than being determined directly by the Council. The applicant, London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), was required under section 42 of the 2008 Act to consult the Borough, as a statutory consultee, on its emerging proposal before formally submitting it to the Secretary of State. This was the fifth round of consultation since the inception of the project and the closing date for responses to this consultation was 21 September 2020.  Given the timeframe involved the Council’s response was agreed with the Chairman of the Cabinet and the Mayor under delegated powers in time for submission by the deadline.

 

The content of the development was outlined in paragraph 3.13 in the report. The report highlighted that, despite the length of time since the last consultation in 2015, much of the assessment work required had not been submitted within the consultation documents and the proposals were therefore lacking much detail. Key documents were missing including transport modelling which made it difficult to assess the impact on the road and rail networks and local transport infrastructure. It was therefore difficult at this stage for the Council to provide detailed comments on the options or the impacts, as the assessment results were not available to enable proper consideration by the Council of the likely impacts and the mitigation needed. LRCH had not allowed sufficient time or resources to enable engagement with the Council and there had been no collaborative working to inform the design or develop mitigations. The response to the consultation therefore drew attention to the assessments that were missing, the paucity of information on the detail of the proposal and the potential risks that could result for the Council and the Borough. It acknowledged that whilst the London Resort has the potential to bring significant benefits to the Borough through employment, skills development and a boost to the local economy, this was not a foregone conclusion and that the right measures would need to be in place to enable this. Mitigations would also need to be in place to ensure that adverse impacts of the scheme could be addressed.  It was therefore hoped that there would be fuller engagement with the Council following the consultation to ensure that the Borough and its residents could benefit from the development and the Council had urged LRCH to delay the submission of its planning application, currently due to be submitted in December, to allow for further collaboration to produce a more rounded and informed submission.

The Chairman thanked officers for the clear and substantive report and noted that there were many unresolved major issues with the current proposals. He asked whether the Secretary of State would consider the viability of the project, its funding and the past performance of the applicant as part of the decision making process. The Head of Regeneration explained that the Secretary of State would focus on planning considerations rather than financial viability or deliverability. She also confirmed that LRCH would not pay a fee to the Secretary of State but would have to enter into a planning agreement with the Council who would be expected to provide detailed advice to the Planning Inspectorate and that LRCH would pay the Council for this work. Members expressed deep concern at the lack of detail and clarity of LRCH’s proposals, insufficient consideration of mitigations and the potential adverse impact on biodiversity, traffic and transport, air and noise pollution and the loss of significant natural habitat.  Concerns were expressed about the impact of the anticipated number of daily visitors to the resort unless the necessary infrastructure was in place but that it was not possible to establish this from the documentation available. A Member also felt that, on the limited information available, it was unlikely that Fastrack would be able to cope with the levels of demand likely to be placed on it. Another Member expressed concern that the NSIP process was effectively front-loaded so that it was important that any application was well constructed with strong documentation and supporting assessments which was not currently the case. He asked what interaction the Council was expecting to have with LRCH prior to the submission of the application to resolve the outstanding issues. The Head of Regeneration explained that the Council had asked LRCH to respond to its concerns and that there were ongoing discussions. The Council was also attending workshops with LRCH’s consultants. 

The Cabinet Advisory Panel strongly endorsed the Council’s proposed response and the recommendations contained in the report.

 

Supporting documents: