As outlined in our June and July updates, the planning application for Project Exodus at Thorpe Park Resort has been subject to a period of consultations, from which a few points requiring further clarification and documentation emerged. Additional documents have been uploaded in relation to these issues, although it still remains unclear when a decision will be made.
Although it appeared as though this was an aspect of the application which had been closed out, in the second half of July, an Archaeological Desk-based Assessment was submitted to Runnymede Borough Council (RBC). This was therefore reviewed by the Surrey County Council (SCC) Archaeology team. They noted that their previous response in March was based on records that suggested that the development area had been quarried, and therefore they had deemed it very unlikely that significant archaeological remains would be present on the site. However, the provided assessment contained results from a geotechnical investigation in 2014 close to the application area, which the SCC Archaeology team had not seen before. This suggested that the development area was instead left intact, meaning there is potential for prehistoric archaeology to be present. As a result, it has been requested that a planning condition is added requiring a written scheme of investigation to be submitted before development starts. This is a relatively standard condition, being one that is attached to many larger scale developments at Alton Towers, for example.
Surrey Wildlife Trust
At the end of July, Surrey Wildlife Trust confirmed that sufficient information had been submitted by Baker Consultants to address the points that they raised. Hence, they are content for the development to proceed on the basis that the Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) is implemented as drafted, and that the finalised Landscape and Ecological Management Plan (LEMP) is provided during the construction period, noting that the submitted skeleton draft of the LEMP appears acceptable in outline.
In a response at the start of August, Natural England indicated that they were still not satisfied with the clarity of information provided in respect of the infilling and restoration of Abbey Lake that is due to occur over the construction phase. Natural England raised three specific questions, which Baker Consultants provided a response to a few days later. Subsequently, Natural England confirmed the withdrawal of their objection on the basis of being in agreement with the conclusions of the information provided that there will be no adverse effects, conditional on construction being completed in line with the CEMP.
The most significant objection has been from the Environment Agency in respect of the potential flood risk at the proposed development site. However, there has been no (published) response from the Environment Agency to the revised Flood Risk Assessment that was submitted around two months ago. Nonetheless, given how pro-active the Resort and its representatives have been in addressing the other objections and issues raised, it seems likely that discussions will have been ongoing behind the scenes. However, it should be remembered that RBC can still approve the development despite the Environment Agency‘s objection, in line with the apparent precedent that they have set to show a degree of flexibility to developments at the Resort which often and inevitably do sit within flood zones, due to the Resort’s location.
After there being no meeting in August, the next Planning Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 7th September. However, the agenda for this has now been published and once again the application for Project Exodus does not feature. Assuming that a decision on the application will be made by committee, given its scale, the next opportunity will be on Wednesday 5th October. Although this does appear like it will be later than the Resort’s preliminary timeline anticipated, with planning documents submitted over the last couple of months referring to a construction period of 75 weeks, it still seems as though opening at the start of the 2024 season is possible.
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