What’s a “screening opinion”?

A “screening opinion” has nothing to do with physical screening of any development. It’s the technical term for deciding whether the developers need to do a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of their plans. Both sets of developers have argued that their proposals are not significant enough to merit an EIA.

This matters, as an EIA means that the developer has to explain in much detail what the potential impacts on biodiversity, pollution, traffic, views etc would be. Without having to do an EIA on either site, the developers get an easier ride.

  • The screening opinion application for the Castle Manor Farm site can be seen here.
  • The one for the Glebe Land site, from IM Properties’ agent, Barton Willmore, can be seen here.

The good news is that the council has decided, earlier in July, that large warehouse development on  either site would “be likely to have ‘significant effects’ on the wider environment owing to its scale, nature and location”, and that thus a full Environmental Impact Assessment is needed on both of them, in advance of any planning applications. This shows how action by the community can have a positive impact.

The council’s firm stance on this, insisting that an EIA is needed on both sites, is welcome news, though the battle is far from over. It is worrying that Titchmarsh Parish Council was not formally notified of either screening application, and we only found out about them tanks to eagle-eyed local residents who spotted them on the council’s website. It is also worrying that the council’s decision notice and “screening matrix” for the Glebe Land site (see here and here) only conclude that the ‘significant impact’ would be in terms of biodiversity and on traffic levels, and not on topography, views, air and noise pollution, or on cultural heritage, given that the course of a Roman road runs along the northern end of the site.

The parish council maintains that the impact of any warehouse development on this site would be significant on all these counts. A letter from the council to Barton Willmore refers to an ‘employment development’ of ‘predominantly B8 [storage and distribution], with B2’ uses. B2 means ‘General Industrial’ use, and can include industrial uses that do not fall within the B1 use class, and that cannot “be carried out in a residential area without detriment to its amenity”.

This raises the prospect of the site being used for industrial processes that would not generally be allowable within a residential area. Given the proximity of both Thrapston and Titchmarsh to the site, we are urging the council to send us any more information it has about exactly what is being proposed.