Planning for insanity with Therme Manchester – a new small town coming to Trafford with no environmental impact assessment

Calum of the core group at CEM brought our attention to a semi-recent news article about demolishing EventCity in Trafford Park and what Peel L&P Group wants to replace it with – a £250million wellbeing resort with indoor beaches as well as numerous pools, saunas and spa centres hoping to attract 1.5million visitors a year (about triple what EventCity does). Peel owns lots of land between the ship canal and the port of Liverpool and regularly touts their ‘sustainability’ credentials, so we thought it’s worth looking a little further.

Alarm bells started ringing as to what energy sources will be used to heat and light this resort, so ventured further into the planning archives of the Trafford Council website. With a bit of digging on the awful Council website (made us nostalgic for MCC’s), we managed to find a couple of nuggets of planning insanity.

Our findings are all related to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening document submitted in July 2019 by WSP Indigo – a big planning consultancy on behalf of Therme Manchester – the developer. This resulted in a screening opinion of a senior planner in Trafford Council to conclude that the development would not need an Environmental Statement (ES). An ES is a more rigorous assessment of impacts, which if deemed significant by a subject matter expert in that area of impact (e.g. ecology / air quality / traffic) would require a redesign or mitigation measures to be put in place.

The EIA screening discloses the below in relation to the amount of electricity, gas and water this development would consume.Therme Manchester EIA Screening resource requirement

We have a number of concerns that don’t seem to have been flagged by either the council or planner. Notably, that this development intends to use fossil gas as a source for heat is the first point of insanity and how that will fit into a 2038 zero carbon future is not mentioned at all. The carbon budget statement that accompanied the planning application was done after Trafford declared a climate emergency in November 2018, but before they had a “carbon neutral plan”. They only asked for a 15% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the building regs so could still be locked into using fossil gas for decades if the developers choose to go with gas.

Secondly, the MWh stated of gas and electricity required in its ‘operational phase’ doesn’t give a time frame – is this per year or per day? Assuming it’s per year and not per day we’ve done a couple of very rough calculations and are concerned that this screening opinion is overlooking some significant impacts.

40,000 MWh of gas is 40 million kWh and an average home with “medium” consumption uses 12,000 kWh per year so this development would use the same amount of gas as 3,333 homes per year – that’s basically a small town!

20,000 MWh of electricity is 20 million kWh and an average home with “medium” consumption uses is 2,900 kWh per year so this development would use the same amount of electricity as 6,897 homes per year – an even bigger town than the gas!

Thirdly this development is lauded as having “all-season urban beach, a waterpark, thermal pools, a spa, as well an urban farm and botanical gardens under one roof”. That sounds like a very wet place and the EIA screening says it will be 1,833 cubic meters of water per day so assuming it’s open 365 days a year that’s 669,045 cubic meters per year. 1 cubic meter is 1,000 litres and the average household gets through 350 litres per day or 127.7 cubic meters per year. So this development would use the same amount of water as 5,239 homes per year – so we’re still talking about small town scale consumption.

If you are concerned about how this development got through with unanimous approval in the planning committee and how it flies in the face of the climate emergency, then please do contact the councillors on the Trafford Planning committee. We need more groups to scrutinise planning proposals and whether they fit with the city region’s 2038 zero carbon commitments, because clearly this isn’t working in our current system and we’ll be locked in with legacy projects that just speed up the demise of the 2038 carbon budget.

4 thoughts on “Planning for insanity with Therme Manchester – a new small town coming to Trafford with no environmental impact assessment”

  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I live in Stockopt. This development smacks in the face of everything we are trying to achieve. How do they get away with it? The Trafford Centre it’s self is a monster and the Chill factory must use a huge amount of resources. These should be published for the general public to see and understand.
    I hope that this development does NOT go ahead for the sake of us all who are living at present on a knife edge

    1. Thanks for the comment Helen.

      I suspect they got away with it because concerned citizens were unaware of what was happening through the small paper notices that would have gone up around event city or the planning portal / committees. So the proposals faced no public resistance to show up the insanity.

      I don’t trade in hope – this will only stop in its current form if the company are sufficiently publicly humiliated or it becomes economically unviable.

  2. We are having the same problem in Ontario, where the government decided on a 95-year lease (yes, that’s not a typo), to decimate trees, destroy natural habitats, ignore environmental protections and disregard the energy/water requirements to keep this running. And, the massive underground parking lot was initially hidden from the public… super sketchy.

    Some more info on that mess:

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