Therme Manchester was given planning consent on a slightly less insane plan than the last one

Wading through Trafford Council’s planning portal is not a simple thing and it seems that searching for related applications that you might think are linked can give you a false sense of security as I found out recently. In addition to requesting a screening opinion for not needing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the planning consultants at WSP took the risky decision to also put in a parallel planning application for developing Therme Manchester. They must have been confident that the EIA screening wouldn’t cause too many problems or it could have been a costly mistake.

The planning application was approved at a Council planning committee meeting back in September so unless a group wants to challenge the Council’s decision via a judicial review, then it’s now just up to the developers to decide if they want to build it before the permission expires on 15 Sep 2026.

Having had a look into one of the 108 documents uploaded as part of the planning process, the carbon budget statement, provides a bit of an insight into what they want to develop. The bad news is around the amount of glass and steel that will be used, which isn’t quantified anywhere and will be a significant contributor to the embodied emissions of the development considering there’s no low carbon ways of making those materials at the moment.

The more interesting thing is what they’re now having to look at for energy and heat due to the changing of the building regulations in 2021. The building regs now seem to make combined heat and power (CHP) from fossil gas less favourable due to the carbon intensity of the heat and energy generated. Combined with Trafford Council’s requirement to be 15% below the target emission rate of the building regulations, there now seems to be a desire to avoid onsite combustion. I’m omitting any wishy washy ambitions from Therme to be carbon neutral…

The lack of CHP can only be a good thing and the plans 3 years on from the last planning application now seem to include a lot more low carbon technologies – solar panels on top of the car park and logisitics hub as well as heat pumps that could be air, ground or water sourced (from the nearby canal). There’s also potential consideration for heat coming from a deep geothermal source or being connected to a low carbon district heat network to nearby Trafford Park. There are supposedly two are being discussed at the moment.

So whilst this wasn’t the outcome we wanted, the new development will still add to a ever-shrinking carbon budget and it’s still concerning that a development of this size and scale can get away with not carrying out a proper EIA, it’s not as insane as the original planning application or the EIA screening opinion makes it out to be. Just don’t look at how most of the visitors and workers will travel there and the traffic it’ll create…

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