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We help secure approval for £27m Durham development

Planning has been approved for a 9,600m2 commercial and retail development in the heart of the historic cathedral city of Durham in the UK.


Engineering consultancy WSP has played a fundamental role in enabling Carillion Developments, Arlington Real Estate and Richardsons Capital to secure planning permission for Freeman’s Reach, a 0.77 ha scheme on the east bank of the river Wear.

The development will replace the existing, derelict ice rink building with two new office blocks, an enhanced riverside walk and an energy centre, and will have the capacity to create and retain 800 jobs, as well as 300 direct and indirect construction jobs on site.

The energy centre will provide a predicted 76% of the buildings’ energy demands with a hydro-turbine. Energy has been generated on the site for over 800 years since the original Bishop’s Mill was built. Most recently the site had a 33kw Gilkes Frances turbine but this is being replaced with a 100kW Archimedean Screw to maximise the benefit from the Government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FiT ) and to provide a significant part of the development’s energy from renewable sources. The hydro-turbine will become a feature of the development and visitors will be encouraged to view the turbine and learn about the history of energy generation on the site through a public art installation.

Due to WSP’s innovative advice, including providing feasibility studies for using the river water to provide ‘free’ heating and cooling to the building, Freeman’s Reach is expected to achieve an Excellent BREEAM rating with the buildings achieving Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) of A+.

Project Director Gary Ireland said: “This truly multi-disciplinary project, in the site line of the World Heritage Site of Durham Castle and Cathedral, has provided a set of unique opportunities and challenges. It called on the full skills base within WSP, engaging teams right across our business from contaminated ground advice, tracking of construction traffic and noise and vibration advice for the 14m long Archimedean Screw, to a lighting survey to satisfy Durham’s ecologists that the development will not affect the habitat of the protected Daubenton’s bats.”

Neil McMillan, Development Director from Carillion Developments, said: “WSP have been a fundamental part of this project since its early bid stages. The site itself is very demanding in terms of its ground conditions, proximity to the River Wear in terms of flood risk and river wall replacement, and our clients’ demands for a BREEAM Excellent rating with highly sustainable buildings. WSP have been able to deal with all of the engineering issues as they have arisen and have provided expertise across abroad range of skills, from air quality analysis to acoustic advice on the impact of the hydro-turbine operating in an urban environment.”

WSP contributed structural, civil, building services, fire, highways and geotechnical engineering services as well as sustainability, vertical transportation, drainage, flood risk and modelling and traffic advice to the planning application. It also gave BREEAM advice and acted as the Accredited Professional Assessor.

Contact Media Manager Emily Beadon 020 7314 4644 or emily.beadon@wspgroup.com

WSP is a leading engineering, environmental and design consultancy in the UK providing integrated management and consultancy services to all aspects of the built and natural environment, ranging from management, engineering and planning, to environmental advice. With over 14,500 staff globally, through its combination with GENIVAR, and over 2000 people operating across the UK, WSP is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, working with governments, businesses, architects and planners and providing integrated solutions across many disciplines. www.wspgroup.co.uk.



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