Under the provisions of the Cheshire Brine Pumping (Compensation for Subsidence) Act, 1952, the Board is a statutory consultee for applications for planning permission and building control approval within areas identified as Consultation Areas (Yellow Areas). There may be additional obligations to consult such as where a commutation of liability has been made but this would need to be the subject of separate communication between the property owner and the Board.
The respective local planning authorities (CWaC, CE and Warrington) have a statutory duty to consult the Board before determining any planning application in respect of any building proposed to be erected within a Consultation Area. Similarly, approved inspectors (including both local authority and private inspectors) have a statutory duty to consult with respect to building control approvals involving new foundations within such areas. The location and extent of the Consultation Areas can be viewed by clicking here and have previously been provided to the authorities either as a digital map and/or in a printed format.
Consultations and responses are required by email to comply with time constraints. Adequate information is required to be provided to enable the Board to identify the location and nature of the development and in particular the proposed foundation design. Routine applications, for example extensions, are dealt with by the Board’s appointed officer but developments of an exceptional nature for example large housing estates are referred to the Board (Sub Group) for approval. The Board does not carry out any design check calculations and only makes outline recommendations for foundation requirements. A default position would generally be adopted by the Board but on receipt of a detailed risk assessment prepared by a suitably qualified person the default position can be reviewed. The Board’s requirements are confined to the perceived brine related risk and it is a matter for the developer to take account of any additional factors associated with the founding materials on site. Objections are rarely made by the Board and where they are submitted they are primarily related to inadequate consideration of the rocksalt mining environment within areas covered by Policy GS7 (Areas Affected by Former Underground Rock Salt Mines in Northwich).
It needs to be recognised that brine related risks within Cheshire are not confined to the consultation areas, for example areas of natural dissolution could be present outside the consultation areas, and the developer should clearly identify the situation in compliance with National Planning Policy Framework within the desk top study which accompanies the planning application. For developments outside the Consultation Areas the Board provides general guidance in the form of Standing Advice but identification of the risk and foundation design in such areas is a matter for the developer and local authority.
The Board often receives unnecessary consultations such as development involving change of use, minor application amendments, unrelated appeals, discharging of unrelated planning conditions and locations outside the Consultation Areas. Conversely the Board are often not consulted or consulted retrospectively, particularly at building control stage, within the Consultation Areas. The latter is possibly associated with the extension of building control responsibilities from the local authorities to private practitioners who are less familiar with the statutory obligations within Cheshire. The current procedure is highly dependent upon effective consultation at the building control stage as foundation design related conditions are rarely imposed at the planning stage but the building control stage is known to be unreliable for the reasons outlined. To help alleviate these problems the Board has actively engaged with the local authorities and recognises the need to continue such initiatives.
To further improve procedures, the approved inspectors should be encouraged to have regard to the Board’s response to the planning consultation. Details of the Board’s consultation areas can be incorporated within the local authority’s GIS to assist in confirming those areas where consultation is required. Additionally, policies need to be established between the local planning and mineral authorities and the Board regarding this unique situation within Cheshire and extended to include strategic development outside the consultation areas.