A major planning project to support the offshore energy industry on the East Suffolk coast has been recognised as an outstanding example of partnership work.
The Lowestoft Eastern Energy Facility (LEEF) is designed to provide the state-of-the-art infrastructure required to meet current and future industry demand. Once complete, the facility will allow the Port of Lowestoft’s Outer Harbour to accommodate the next generation of offshore support vessels.
A collaboration between East Suffolk Council as determining body and Associated British Ports (ABP) as applicant, the LEEF was named ‘Best Project’ at the regional final of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2022.
The awards celebrate and recognise the positive impact of plans, projects and individuals in creating exceptional places and protecting our environment.
The project began in November 2020, when ABP applied to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for reconstruction of the existing quay in the Outer Harbour at the Port of Lowestoft. ABP was subsequently granted a marine licence by the MMO last December, following a period of collaboration and joint working with the Council.
The LEEF will eventually create more quay side space and deeper water to allow three operations and maintenance vessels to use the berth simultaneously, as well as new offices and additional facilities for crew transfer vessels, while retaining and improving fish landing sites to continue support of the local industry.
Environmental initiatives are proposed as part of the LEEF project, including the relocation of intertidal boulders to maintain the habitat type and its ecosystem within the port. Enhancements will also be made to the Port of Lowestoft kittiwake wall – a purpose built structure that provides a safe nesting site for the protected seabird.
In presenting the award, the RTPI praised the project for demonstrating what can be achieved when the public and private sector work together with communities, adding:
“The grant of consent for the LEEF Project unlocks the potential for an energy cluster renaissance in Lowestoft, bringing new jobs and prosperity to the area and supporting the substantial and strategically important investments in offshore wind farm developments off the East Anglian coast.
“At a national level, LEEF has a major role in providing critical port infrastructure to enable the UK's clean energy transition and path to net zero.”
The East of England winners were announced on 30 June at the Hylands Estate, in Chelmsford, and will go on to enter the national final in November.
Councillor David Ritchie, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Planning and Coastal Management at ESC, said:
“This is an ambitious and complex project requiring planning consent on land and at sea.
“It has only been through close collaborative work and open, constructive communication with stakeholders, that a number of challenges were overcome in the planning application and determination process.
“This means that the LEEF now has the potential to build on the already important role played by the Port of Lowestoft in the local economy.”
Sophie Young, Environmental Lead, Associated British Ports said:
“At ABP, we’re proud our LEEF development will support the increased production of more renewable, clean energy and bring hundreds of new jobs, investment and interest to the region.
“The collaboration between ABP, the MMO and East Suffolk Council has been exemplary, and has allowed us to deliver against the needs of multiple stakeholders in an efficient and coordinated way.”
Adam Chumbley, MMO Marine Licensing Manager, said:
“This award is a fantastic example of how positive outcomes can be achieved by working together.
“Our role in licensing marine development is to provide solutions that protect the sea and deliver environmental, economic and societal benefits. This project really shows the value of collaboration and joint working in ensuring these aims are met.”
Head of Planning and Coastal Management at ESC, Philip Ridley also came away from the ceremony having been Highly Commended in the Head Planner of the Year category.
Meanwhile, the Chair's Award, presented to an individual who has gone above and beyond expectations in providing support and mentoring within the planning industry, was posthumously presented to the late Lisa Chandler, who passed away earlier this year.
Lisa was a much-loved colleague and highly regarded Energy Projects Manager in the Planning and Coastal Management Service.