The Monkerton Story: the planning and delivery of District Heating in a low density private housing scheme in Exeter.....without subsidy.

The Monkerton Story by John Rigby, Chair Low Carbon Task Force.

1.Summary
1.1 This paper sets out the history behind the delivery of an extensive low density District Heating scheme in a new build private residential scheme at Monkerton on the east side of Exeter, without the provision of any grant aid. The delivery of DH at Monkerton faced some fundamental challenges from parts of the housebuilding sector and was achieved only as a result of careful policy preparation with a firm evidence base and sheer determination, including legal action to sustain the adopted planning policies. The paper underlines the benefit of long term public/private collaboration in delivering growth and low carbon infrastructure.

1.2 The exact circumstances are unlikely to be repeated elsewhere but many of the features of this negotiation are likely to be repeated.? For the reader who is solely interested in DH delivery issues, then please turn to Sections 5 and 6. If however the development context is important, please read the full paper.

Monkerton from the air - April 2016 - Still Imaging

 

2. Background
2.1 Exeter is a compact historic City of 120,000 people with tight administrative boundaries. Some 35 % of the land area is designated as ‘Valley Park’ - a reflection of its setting on the Exe and its minor tributaries and of the intrinsic landscape quality which has resulted. It is bounded on the north and west sides by high ground of high landscape value. Exeter thus had relatively modest areas of land for future growth. The City tended to be perceived in the post war period as a pleasant County town, without a great deal of economic dynamism. It has a relatively small manufacturing base but acts as a service centre for the south west. There was a significant development boom in the 1980s which saw much of the remaining undeveloped land in the City occupied by new office and service sector activities. After that period of expansion, few options for further growth remained without building in the floodplain or on the prominent high ground which has considerable landscape value.

2.2 To grow further, Exeter has had to look to its neighbours – Teignbridge to the south west and, particularly, East Devon to the east. Moreover, as a District Council, strategic planning and transportation issues have sat with the County Council. Inter authority co-operation was thus essential if effective growth was to be delivered. Fortunately, despite significantly different socio economic characteristics and different political control between the authorities, a pragmatic approach to development has been taken over the last 20 years, resulting in the successful bidding for and re-location of the Met Office from Bracknell, followed by the translation of the proposal for a Science Park – met with initial scepticism - into a strategic facility which is now up and running. The impact of the Met Office re-location on the City’s growth prospects has been significant but the ability to respond to the subsequent growth pressures was somewhat circumscribed.

2.3 Whilst work on the delivery of a new community east of Exeter began in 1991, the spur to delivery was undoubtedly the launch of the competitive bidding by the government for Growth Point designation in late 2005. Some 50 Growth Points were designated in two rounds and the Exeter and East Devon area was one of these. The bid promised an increase of 26,000 jobs and 20,000 households in the Growth Point area – to be delivered by 2026, by the three bidding authorities – East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council. The bulk of the growth was to be allocated to the new community of Cranbrook, two miles east of the Exeter boundary but an additional 12,000 dwellings needed to be accommodated within Exeter between 2006 and 2026. The proposals for the City were included in the Core Strategy which was in preparation from 2005 and approved in 2012. Three major development sites were allocated: Newcourt(3500 dwellings); Monkerton (2500 dwellings); and south west Exeter (2500 dwellings of which 500 were in Exeter and the remainder in Teignbridge). The latter two sites also had employment land allocated, in addition.

2.4 Although this paper focuses on the Monkerton allocation, the ground breaking work at Cranbrook should be briefly outlined, as that set the context for both the framing of policy and the approach to delivery at Monkerton.

2.5 Cranbrook was designated originally as a new community with 2900 dwellings approved in the first phase, growing to 6000 dwellings by 2026. As time has passed, this has moved to an expectation that this would ultimately rise to 7500 dwellings. At the conceptual stage the local authority wanted to ensure that this was a sustainable community. A laudable aim but one which has been commonly adopted around the country, but is often no more than a piece of marketing gloss. The Growth Point Project Team commissioned Element Energy to advise on the CO2 implications of the developments then being proposed across the Growth Point over the period to 2020 and to recommend the best approach for minimising the CO2 impacts. Their 2008 report concluded that: ‘Large sites across the Growth Point requiring intermediate carbon reductions (level 4 and above) will be most cost effectively served by site wide district heating; at higher code levels, this would be augmented with biomass CHP.’ Source: ‘East of Exeter New Growth Point: Energy Strategy’. Element Energy. 2008 (Available on East Devon District Council’s website)

2.6 Element Energy’s key recommendations included: Early adoption of the Code for Sustainable Homes; site wide energy systems; adoption of a low carbon strategy; the adoption of DH networks on commercial sites; and supporting the deployment of an Energy from Waste plant. These recommendations have very much defined the focus of the collaborative work over the last seven years.

2.7 At Cranbrook, EDDC, supported by the HCA, facilitated a negotiation between the developers and E.ON for the construction of a Combined Heat and Power Plant, with a biomass obligation as part of the planning consent for the first phase of Cranbrook. The CHP plant was to be linked to an 80 km district heating pipe network, which, with improved home insulation, would deliver zero carbon housing. Whilst the housebuilder consortium expressed considerable scepticism about constructing new dwellings without individual gas supplies and conventional central heating boilers, the combination of local authority policy and pressure from the HCA, linked with grant provision, resulted in agreement to a CHP plant and DH network at Cranbrook. The first dwellings were occupied in mid 2012 and there are now more than 1200 dwellings occupied. 2.8 The key point about Cranbrook is that the precedent had been established for the delivery of DH in a large low density housing scheme.

To read / download the paper in full, click here or on the link on the right (pdf file). 

 

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