Gladman’s response to JBO’s comments on the CEC Shearbrook planning page makes interesting reading:
“We write in respect of the above planning application, and specifically to respond to the formal consultation response from Jodrell Bank Observatory [JBO], which is set out in the email of Mr Simon Garrington to Sue Orrell of 22 January 2015.
JBO objects to the application and, in summary, the consultation response claims that:
- Radio interference from a range of electrical and electronic devices affects the operation of the Lovell telescope.
- The interference received at the telescope from a given location depends on the distance from the telescope and the interfering terrain, as well as the strength of the transmission itself.
- JBO has constructed maps (based on Ordnance Survey data and recognised propagation models) so that potential radio emissions and interference arising from a given development proposal (as a function of direction and distance from the telescope) can be estimated.
- The application proposal at Goostrey is likely to generate interference which exceeds the internationally agreed threshold for what constitutes ‘detrimental interference’ to radio astronomy observations.
- According to analysis, the proposed development could increase the total interference in a sector (10 degrees wide, out to 40 km) by at least 10%.
- The proposal poses a significant risk to the efficient operation of the Jodrell Bank telescopes.
Gladman has made several requests to JBO (following receipt of the objection and at the pre-application stage) to release its modelling data, on which the formal objection to the planning application is based. JBO has however confirmed to us that it is not prepared to release this information. Furthermore, JBO has confirmed that this information has not been made available to Cheshire East Council [CEC].
Representatives of Gladman attended a meeting with Simon Garrington and a colleague of JBO on Friday 27 February 2015. This meeting was requested by Gladman in order for us to further understand JBO’s concerns regarding the proposal. At the meeting Simon Garrington gave a presentation expanding on his comments made on the formal consultation response. JBO refused to release the presentation slides to Gladman however.
The actions of JBO and the refusal to release the evidence that it relies on to support its objection to the proposal points to obfuscation. In the absence of the information, it is impossible to properly quantify the impact of the proposed development and the practical implications of it for the efficient operation of the telescope.
JBO asserts in its consultation response that the application proposal at Goostrey is likely to generate interference which exceeds the internationally agreed threshold for what constitutes ‘detrimental interference’ to radio astronomy observations. However, we understand from comments made by Simon Garrington at our meeting that a single electronic device (for example an iPhone) in parts of the consultation zone, including Goostrey, has the potential to exceed the relevant ITU-R threshold referred to.
In this context, it must be the case that the baseline position is one where the ITU-R threshold is exceeded. Furthermore, given the significant levels of existing development in Goostrey and the surrounding area as well as other infrastructure and human activity in the area between the application site and the observatory, not least an electrified railway line, it is not clear what the actual ‘real world’ effect of the proposal would be on the operation of the telescope, when assessed against the current baseline. At our meeting, Mr Garrington seemed reluctant to comment on whether, for example, there were experiments that are currently capable of being carried out that would no longer be possible (or would become significantly more difficult) as a consequence of the proposed development.
As we have set out already in emails to CEC (of 21 January and 4 February 2015), the purpose of the relevant Congleton Borough Local Plan First Review [CBLPFR] Policy PS10 was examined in detail at the Twemlow Lane appeal (Appeal Ref.: APP/R0660/A/12/2174710). The Inspector establishes in the decision letter that:
‘The purpose of CBLPFR Policy PS10 is given in accompanying paragraph 2.69, which indicates that it is to take account of the Town and Country (Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope) Direction 1973. That Direction requires the local planning authority to consult with the University of Manchester, who manage the Telescope, and give notice of its decision. Although it also refers to taking account of the University’s requirements in respect of maintaining the efficiency of the Radio Telescope in terms of its ability to receive radio emissions from space with a minimum of interference from electrical equipment, it does not suggest that any increase in interference would necessarily result in an unacceptable impairment to this efficiency.’
At the Twemlow Lane Inquiry, CEC agreed with the appellant that the level of impairment to Jodrell Bank Telescope needs to be unacceptable to result in material conflict with CBLPFR Policy PS10. In this context, JBO has not released any evidence to substantiate its objection to our application or demonstrate that the proposal will result in unacceptable impairment to the operation of the telescope.
In addition to the foregoing, it is not clear to what extent (if at all) the JBO modelling work takes into account mitigation measures that can be incorporated within the fabric of the proposed dwellings to shield against radio emissions. In its previous correspondence with CEC, Gladman has confirmed that it is prepared to accept a condition requiring the approval of details to provide insulation against radio emissions, prior to the commencement of development. This is the approach that the Inspector for the Twemlow Green appeal considered to be appropriate. Consistent with this, the Inspector for the recently determined Forge Lane, Congleton appeal (Appeal Ref.: APP/R0660/A/14/2226494) also considered this approach to be appropriate.
Condition 6 of this decision states:
‘Prior to the commencement of development, plans showing details of all external facing material and internal insulation to the building (in respect of insulation against radio waves) shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority. Development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.’
Gladman is prepared to work with JBO and consider any reasonable mitigation measures that they might suggest to alleviate their concerns. This offer was made to JBO at our recent meeting.
In conclusion, JBO has not released any evidence to substantiate its objection to our planning application of demonstrate that the proposed housing development at Goostrey will result in unacceptable impairment to the operation of the telescope, compared with the current baseline position. It follows that there is no evidence available to CEC, as it stands, to support a conclusion that the application proposal causes conflict with CBLPFR Policy PS10. Gladman considers that this matter can be appropriately dealt with by condition, consistent with other recent development management decisions in this area, made by both CEC and the planning inspectors, and reaffirms its acceptance of such a condition.”
Source: Gladman’s response; 1/4/2015. Rebecca May Assistant Project Mgr