Dorset Police seeking to ‘downgrade’ the environment standard of new HQ

DORSET Police is to downgrade the high environment standard of its new force headquarters building at Winfrith.

The force is asking to only have to meet ‘very good’ standards, as opposed to the ‘excellent’ standards it said it would achieve at the time planning consent was granted.

It has now made an application to vary its planning consent as originally approved by Dorset Council.

Controversy has surrounded the building since it was first proposed with claims from the parish council that its shiny surfaces would confuse birds and lead to unnecessary deaths. The force has since issued a statement which said that the building would not be as reflective as suggested by its original computer-enhanced drawings.

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It has so far declined to reveal the likely cost of the building, which will replace the existing main block, although another request for that information has been made this week by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

A report to Dorset Council in support of the change says that even by increasing building costs by 15% the force might still not achieve the higher ‘excellent’ grade.

An application to downgrade the building standards had been submitted to Dorset Council by the office of the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, using a Manchester-based planning agent.

A statement to the council says: “The wording of the condition includes the requirement for a BREEAM ‘Excellent’, building subject to the qualification of ‘unless otherwise first agreed in writing by the local planning authority.’ It is now established that a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating cannot be achieved for the proposed building. This is primarily due to the site constraints and the operational nature of the building. There are also various time-dependent credits that are unachievable, as well as other credits that would addly substantial to the cost of the project, and are therefore unachievable.”

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The paperwork says that despite the application to downgrade the building is still expected to achieve “high levels of performance in relation to sustainability criteria” including limiting operational carbon by more than 40 per cent over building regulation standards and will have an all-electric design with low carbon and renewable energy sources as well as electric car charging points. The force is also promising to achieve a significant reduction in water use.

A joint letter to the council from Chief Constable Scott Chilton and the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, say they regret not being able to achieve the higher standard for sustainability assessment but have had to take a practical approach.

“While preparing our planning application, our team held lengthy pre-application dialogue with the local planning authority team (Dorset Council) to explain our stance on obtaining ‘excellent’ and this was reflected in the building application we requested. At no point was the explicit requirement for ‘excellent’ made clear to us in writing and so this planning condition, therefore, has come as something of a surprise. For completeness, during the internal planning stage, we did strive to target ‘excellent’ but recognised that we would be unlikely to achieve this due to various factors that were largely out of our control.”

What is BREEAM?

The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for sustainability is used to masterplan projects, infrastructure and buildings.

It was launched in 1990 and sets out standards for environmental performance and measures energy use, land use and ecology, water use, health and wellbeing, pollution, transport, materials and waste.

Independent assessors are used to judge schemes with inspections usually made at the design stage followed by a post-construction assessment and the issue of a final certificate.

Developments are rated and certified on a scale of Unclassified (<30%), Pass (>30%), Good (>45%), Very Good (>55%), Excellent (>70%) and Outstanding (>85% ).

Only around 10 per cent of all buildings reach the excellent standard, only one per cent outstanding.

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