Feedback and FAQ's

Following our meeting with Beechwood and Heath Councillors 23 November 2022, we have jointly agreed the questions listed below.

If there is a question we haven’t covered please let your Councillors know and they will relay it to us.

 

Outline planning permission, is much less detailed than full planning permission. By applying for it, we are asking the local planning authority to agree to the principle of development, with all other specific matters (called “reserved matters”) e.g. means of access, appearance, landscaping, layout, scale to be agreed at a later date when submitting further detailed “reserved matters” planning applications that will need to be submitted and approved prior to any works being able to be undertaken to implement the development proposals. Therefore the masterplan submitted in support of the application is intended solely for illustrative purposes, with the proposed quantum of development outlined therein serves as an indication of the maximum capacity for both residential and non-residential uses that can be accommodated on the site. This differs from a full planning application where permission is sought for all of the details of the development.

Formerly the chemical headquarters of ICI and a vital employment centre for Runcorn. The Heath Business and Technical Park has been an acclaimed, successful venture since its acquisition from ICI by SOG ltd in March 2000. As well as providing a valued community resource, it supports in the region of 1,200 jobs over a wide variety of sectors, mainly in science and technology where it can offer facilities unique to the North-West.

The Heath Technical and Business Centre faces challenges, including aging infrastructure, energy inefficiency, and funding issues. As a privately-funded entity competing with public counterparts, it aims to future-proof for future generations. Heath Park envisions a Port Sunlight-inspired space, addressing people and environmental needs.
An international competition by the Royal Institute of British Architects attracted 50+ global submissions. The winning design, overseen by academics from Liverpool and Lancaster Universities, prioritises resilience and meets contemporary challenges. Rigorous commercial viability assessment and inclusion of the North Site aim to
attract investor/developers. Recognised at local and national levels, Heath Park is a Liverpool City Region Beacon project, featured in the UK’s Global Investment Atlas.
Awarded the 2022 Pineapple Award and 2023 Urban Design Group Award, the proposals gained widespread support and acclaim.

Central to the reinvention of Heath Park is the introduction of up to 545 new homes, marking a significant stride towards transforming it into a vibrant urban village. This initiative presents a singular opportunity to infuse renewed vitality, viability, and sustainability into the application site, safeguarding the enduring prosperity of Heath Park for generations to come.

SOG Group are the owners and operators of The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, SOG was formed from the Site Operations Group of ICI. John Lewis was a founder member of SOG in 1999 along with former ICI managers.  John had worked on the site as a contractor since 1977. He ultimately became the major shareholder in SOG in 2010.  For more than 20 years John has been the driving force to secure The Heath Business and Technical Park as a key employment and community asset for the Borough and has been the inspirational figure behind the vision to create Heath Park. The Heath Business and Technical Park is currently home to 120 individual businesses that between them support the employment of around 1200 people. It has also opened facilities on site for use by the local community. SOG also offer specialist technical support and services to the resident businesses many of whom are at the very cutting edge of scientific R&D, providing high-quality employment in Runcorn.

The land North of Heath Road South is owned by the SOG Pension Fund.

SOG has applied for Outline Planning Permission (with all matters reserved for consideration in future “reserved matters” planning applications) at the Heath Business and Technical Park and for the land north of Heath Road South. The proposals apply for the agreement on the principle of the following:

– Up to 545 residential units including dwellinghouses (use class C3) and senior living and extra care (use class C2) with ancillary car and cycle parking;
– Ancillary floorspace for flexible E use classes (including office, conference centre, retail, health provision, leisure [including food and beverage]), F2 use classes (meeting places for the local community and indoor pool), and a hotel (use class C1);
– Sui generis uses including STEAM spaces, a drinking establishment, and a vertical farm;
– Principle of Highways access and servicing arrangements; and
– Infrastructure provision, inclusive of a new living machine (emerging wastewater treatment technology), and all other associated works including re-configuration of existing building on site, landscaping, public realm, and biodiversity improvements.

  • The original application was made 14th October 2022
  • Following responses from consultees and HBC a revised application was submitted on the 30th November 2023 following a request for comments SOG submitted their final application on 31st January 2024 and is now subject to final review.

The scheme has an approach to social and environmental sustainability which proposes a sustainable balance between people and the environment. The amounts of development have therefore been determined such that positive environmental and social benefits are achieved. This approach has received global recognition having been included in the UK’s first Global Investment Atlas (promoted by the Department for International Trade) and has also resulted in receiving the prestigious Pineapple Award for Future Place (sponsored by the Design Council).

Although the Project requires a fair return on investment, its main drivers are the creation of a living/working community with health and well-being at its core.

Should the Local Planning Authority grant outline planning permission they will impose planning conditions and request the applicant enters into a legal agreement that will set the parameters for future “reserved matters” planning applications with the objective of safeguarding the site from over-development so that the project progresses in a sustainable and responsible manner.

The proposed development provides continuance of an important employment base, substantial job creation, including temporary employment opportunities throughout construction, and the introduction of a new Vertical Farming industry.
Increased economic activity as a result of the above; Improvements to Health and Well-being in the provision of enhanced biodiverse green spaces and the resulting improvements in air quality; Addressing housing needs at both the borough-wide and local levels on a largely brownfield site, including affordable housing.

As referenced: Section 6.3 in the Planning Statement (January 2024).

  • No jobs will be lost because of this development it will enhance employment opportunities for the area.
  • The development represents private sector investment in terms of construction costs delivering over 709 gross person years of construction employment. This will have a significant effect in terms of new jobs creation and other businesses and services that are employed through the construction of the proposed development and the associated supply chain.
  • Total of 3,186 new employment opportunities through direct/ indirect employment.
  • Total of 2,202 FTE jobs created within the development, which assumes 1,242 full time employees associated with the existing retained commercial floorspace and an additional 960 FTE created through the redevelopment proposals.
  • Total 867 FTE jobs in local economy of Halton.

The site extends to 21.187 hectares hectares and consists of two separate areas: the established Heath Business and Technical Park and a greenfield land parcel situated to the north-west. While physically divided by Heath Road South, both areas are designed to operate as an interconnected scheme. The site allocations
are shown in the DALP Policy map and comprise the following:

– The Heath Park Site is allocated as a ‘Primarily Employment Area’, under DALP Policy ED2. – The north-west land parcel is designated as Greenspace (Natural & Semi-Natural) and is part of a Nature Improvement Area.

The land to the north of Heath Road South has been extensively surveyed over recent years and the results have been assessed by HBC who have stated that “The site is not listed as contaminated on the Part 2A register”

Heath Park will be a phased development with some 6 Phases anticipated.
The final phasing of development will be controlled by planning conditions and through future reserved matters applications.
Completion is likely to be within 10 years of the approval of the final “reserved matters” planning application.

Central to the design of the development is the aim of minimising vehicle traffic as far as possible. The Heath will be a modern vision of sustainability with the aim of attracting people to live, work and play in the same community, which will enable a high proportion of trips to be made by walking and cycling. This will minimise the impact on local roads.

While some people will choose to travel by car, the Heath will be designed as such to minimise the impact of vehicle traffic including: applying a measured approach to the level of car parking being provided, having multiple access points rather than a single access allowing the distribution of vehicles across the road network, and removing the ability to ‘rat-run’ through the centre of the development.
The Planning Application is supported by both a detailed Transport Assessment and Framework Travel Plan, which in combination provide an assessment of the impact of the development on transport modes and a strategy to monitor future travel behaviour to promote sustainable choices.

We are continuing to work with the Highway Authority to ensure any transport impacts arising from the development will be appropriately mitigated.

As part of the planning application process, a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA) has been undertaken to evaluate the potential effects of the Proposed Development on various aspects, including local schools, health services, and emergency services. This assessment meticulously examines the socio-economic and health profile of the surrounding area across different scales.

Furthermore, as an integral component of the HIA, a thorough desktop audit of healthcare facilities within a one-mile radius of the site. This audit encompasses GP surgeries, dental practices, pharmacies, and hospitals. The findings indicate that the Proposed Development is anticipated to yield an overall positive impact on the health and well-being of both the local population and future residents at the site.

For detailed insights into the outcomes of the Health Impact Assessment and its implications for local infrastructure and services, please refer to the Health Impact Assessment submitted in support of the outline planning application. Please note that we continuing to work with the Local Planning Authority to ensure any impacts on social infrastructure arising from the development will be appropriately mitigated.

The proposed residential development on the north west development parcels will result in a loss of 3.12 hectares of designated greenspace (comprising Natural and Semi-Natural typology/Nature Improvement Area), but this will be compensated by the on-site provision of 4.156 hectares of new and enhanced publicly accessible Natural and Semi-Natural greenspace. This provision aligns with the requirements outlined in part 4.b. of the Development Allocation Local Plan (DALP) policy HE4, and ensures the realization of habitat creation and management benefits as identified in DALP policy HE1.

Furthermore, the integration of a publicly accessible, high-quality network of green infrastructure as an integral component of the reimagined Heath Park has been purposefully designed to address the provisions of part 1. of DALP policy HE4, with benefits serving both the new residents of Heath Park and the existing surrounding community, fostering a sense of cohesion and well-being for all. The combined development therefore aims to maximize the connectivity of green spaces on-site with existing public right-of-way paths, long-distance footpaths, and national cycle routes, fostering a cohesive network for residents and the broader community, as demonstrated by planning application drawing ATC.22.1229.122.r2 (Access & Connectivity) and figures 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5 of the Planning Statement (January 2024).

Heath Park impact on the environment has been one of the more important drivers (along with health and well-being) behind the scheme. An independent study by Liverpool John Moores University shows improvements across the board to the environment (eg. Climate regulation, noise, pollution and air quality).

Extensive collaboration between the applicant and the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service (MEAS) has been pivotal in developing a robust landscaping and greenspace masterplan strategy, aimed at achieving Biodiversity Gains. The Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Assessment, conducted by Amenity Tree Ltd, demonstrates significant achievements, with a remarkable +29.26% increase in habitat units under the BNG metric 3.1 and a +1.73% increase under the 4.0 metric. These findings exceed both local and national planning policy requirements regarding Biodiversity Net Gain. The Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) Assessment also includes includes an extensive series of habitat creation and habitat management method statements, and the applicant the applicant (or their accredited agent) has the responsibility to ensure a 30 year habitat creation, management, and monitoring plan is in place to achieve and deliver biodiversity net gain. Both of these measures can be the subject of a planning condition to ensure their implementation through future Reserved Matters applications.

The greenspace masterplan includes a range of initiatives aimed at enhancing biodiversity, such as hedgerow restoration, increased planting along the development’s perimeters, and the establishment of additional green infrastructure and linkages within the site. Native tree and shrub planting along site boundaries serve to enhance habitat connectivity, fostering a more cohesive and sustainable ecological landscape.

Furthermore, the redevelopment of previously developed land by the Proposed Development significantly reduces pressure on greenfield sites, supporting sustainable land use practices and helping to preserve valuable green belt areas. This approach aligns with broader environmental conservation objectives while promoting responsible urban development principles.

Given that the proposed housing development is proposed as outline, the mix and type of affordable housing that could be provided is not yet defined. This will be the subject of further discussions with the LPA and approval in future “reserved matters” planning applications. In order to optimise the delivery of affordable housing and mixed communities, the applicant will seek (where viable) to provide a sustainable mix of rental and intermediate homes in line with strategy objectives of the DALP and long terms sustainability of the proposed development.

It is a sustainable way of growing food close to where it is consumed with vertical farms at the moment growing mainly leafy green crops such as lettuce, spinach and herbs. The produce is grown in layers stacked one on top of the other in a closely controlled environment. The range of plants that can be grown is expanding all the time; strawberries, blueberries and wheat are among some of the crops that are currently being trialled.

  • Its advantages are that it uses 90% less water than traditional soil-based methods, it does not require the use of pesticides, and can be positioned close to local populations minimising the need for transport (and the energy use, pollution, and loss of freshness that follows). Vertical Farms can also reduce the need for intensive conventional farming allowing agricultural land to recover its natural role as a habitat for wildlife. This was highlighted by David Attenborough in his recent series A Life On Our Planet 

    We have also commissioned a study of the social benefit a Vertical Farm could bring. Our “Field of the Future”, a circa 5,000 sq.m. building, will result in a contribution of some £14M/year to local health, education and climate improvement.

  • The main challenge is the considerable energy needed to power lighting and maintain suitable temperature and humidity. The Heath Park “Field of the Future” will be powered by clean energy by using hydrogen from the forthcoming HyNet hydrogen pipeline network. SOG, in conjunction with The University of Liverpool, carried out a controlled experiment at The Heath which shows that food can be grown with hydrogen power in a Carbon negative way: i.e. We can grow food AND reduce carbon dioxide at the same time

  • We anticipate somewhere in the region of 50 skilled, green jobs being created by our “Field of the Future”. It will provide employment opportunities beyond HeathPark. The supply chain supporting our “Farm of the Future”, replicable model, will contribute to replacing local declining heavy chemical industries.
  • As food grown is intended for the local population, we anticipate service traffic to mainly be cargo bicycles and zero emissions electronic vans.

Throughout the development cycle our bespoke process “The Fusion Process”  is referenced.

The Fusion Process is a five-stage, systematic and consistent approach to designing and delivering real estate developed by SOG Ltd that aims to combine multi-disciplinary team’s skills and knowledge to deliver cohesive, creative solutions by considering the site as part of a wider economic, social and environmental system, with a focus on vision and values throughout the development process.

The full document is linked here: FUSION WEBLINK

  1. Heath Park is about people.
  2. Facilities currently available to the community will be enhanced by additional new ones helping to support our aim of improving health and well-being in Runcorn.
  3. To understand and manage social issues we have used the principles of  ‘Well-being’  in dealing with the root causes of many of today’s social problems. Furthermore, ‘Well-being’ encompasses a much broader range of topics and benefits which is why the expertise of Liverpool and Lancaster Universities has been integral in the design of our vision for a sustainable living and working community.
  4. The resulting proposals, health-checked by specialist assessors and both universities, project significant benefits to The Heath and surrounding areas. These include:
  • The aim to reduce the need for private cars by promoting walking and cycling. Increasing the accessibility to green space and the use of communal transport will reduce air pollution and improve general health, saving nearly 4 lives per year and also reducing the burden on (and the cost to) the NHS from general health issues.
  • The intended use of hydrogen as an energy source and a Vertical Farm providing the freshest local source of food will contribute even more to our ‘well-being’ aspirations.
  • The mix of generations and social groups, along with Facilities and Social Site Management, is intended to promote and maintain pride and care of place. This has a number of benefits including reducing loneliness and crime, but significantly stabilises the community by providing the opportunity for an existing ageing population to stay in the area while downsizing to more manageable accommodation, thus releasing larger homes to their younger families.
  • Alongside the new science-related jobs that will be created as a direct result of the re-vitalisation of the existing Business and Technical Park, there will be lots of opportunities for smaller local businesses, spin-out companies, and charities. These organisations can develop existing or new skills in Arts, Crafts and Recycling/Repurposing as part of the Heath Park ethos to offer local people a chance to influence how the location will look and feel.  

It is important to note that the illustrative masterplan submitted in support of the application is intended solely for illustrative purposes. The proposed quantum of development outlined therein serves as an indication of the maximum capacity for both residential and non-residential uses that can be accommodated on the site. Whilst this is the case, the illustrative masterplan seeks to establish clear principles of design and layout for future “reserved matters” planning applications.

  • Starting with the wider green infrastructure, it was established early on that opportunity existed to connect Runcorn Hill and the agricultural land adjoining it to the golf course to the south-east of the site by creating an ecology corridor along the line of the existing overhead power lines. This corridor would be reinforced by existing and new trees and landscape along the way, and extend through a hierarchy of spaces into courtyards within the built-up areas.
  • Analysis of the topography of the site suggested opportunities for a water strategy which maximised the use and visibility of the water system, both collections, use and re-use, discharging to a new wetlands on the east edge of the site.
  • The existing central boulevard forms a useful spine, in spatial terms, to the existing built-form which will be retained and also connects to the surrounding road network at both ends. To prevent the site being used as a shortcut between Heath Road South and the Southern Expressway the boulevard will be blocked to through traffic. The internal street system has been developed to largely separate working and living areas and creating a “filtered permeability” using new access points from Heath Road South.
  • The proposed layout concentrates the “working” elements of the scheme along the central boulevard with residential uses to the east and west having closer connections to green space. Leisure and retail use to service the living and working community are located to the north around a new “high street” off Heath Road South which terminates in a new public plaza at the north end of the boulevard.

Whilst the specific details of the scale of built form across the proposed development is a “reserved matter”, drawing 19-02 app 112 E (scale parameter) sets a maximum scale of 4 storeys that will govern the scale permitted through future “reserved matters” planning applications. The general principle of scale across the proposed development is mainly determined by the decision to re-use existing built form as much as possible in order to reduce the carbon cost of the scheme. The existing 60s buildings are well proportioned and sit entirely on the lower plateau of the site. Although they are 3-storey buildings with roof-top plantrooms, their spacing and disposition allow daylight into generous courtyard spaces.
None of the newly planned additions (Vertical Farm) will exceed the height of the existing 3- storey buildings.

The Heath Park development is not at risk from chemical leaks at the Runcorn Chemical Site which is a Tier One COMAH Site. 

This includes Chlorine which is the only chemical determined to be a risk in the event of leakage. 

To further validate this, SOG have employed internationally renowned specialists in the field of CFD modelling and risk assessment to undertake a comprehensive and extensive study using the latest technology and current data which concluded that Heath Park is not at risk from a chlorine leak.

This report has been presented to and accepted by HBC and the same specialists have presented it to the UK Health & Safety Executive.

Furthermore Heath Park fully complies with HBC Planning for Risk Policy which is an essential part of any planning application presented to HBC Planning Authority.