Operating for more than 50 years, the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station will close at the end of September 2024. Its buildings, cooling towers and other structures will be decommissioned and demolished, making the site and surrounding land suitable to be redeveloped as a zero-carbon technology and energy hub for the East Midlands. Arup, working with Uniper, the site owner, supported Rushcliffe Borough Council to establish a Local Development Order (LDO) to make the most out of the potential development opportunities of the site.

Ensuring the needs of future occupiers and investors are accommodated and potential risks mitigated, this planning framework envisages the construction of up to 810,000 m2 of advanced manufacturing, green energy generation and logistics floorspace. The new facility will create between 7,000 and 8,000 local job opportunities, generating £513m per year for the East Midlands economy and turning the Ratcliffe power station site into a catalyst for the local area’s wider economic growth.

Informing decisions to achieve better outcomes

After reviewing different planning options, our teams considered that an LDO was the most effective strategy to provide a planning framework for the site. Although they require political support, LDOs go beyond outline planning permissions to allow a development to be completed flexibly within a defined area. As they are made by local planning authorities, LDOs are intended to be adaptable and practical planning tools that serve local governments to support growth and provide the certainty needed to attract investment.

In addition, part of the Ratcliffe power station site forms part of the East Midlands Freeport – recently recognised by the UK Government. Aiming to turn freeports into innovation and economic growth clusters, the government guidance encourages the use of LDOs to enable a more certain, faster and more flexible infrastructure delivery, while allowing the local authority to retain control about over the future use of the site. We recognised that this was particularly important for the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station site, as a faster delivery will support its transition to a lower carbon future and could help retain jobs and skills in the area.

Collaborating to increase stakeholder engagement

On Uniper’s behalf, our team supported the local authority, Rushcliffe Borough Council, in developing the LDO, producing the draft site masterplan, providing evidence and technical reports and drafting the LDO and Statement of reasons document. Extensive liaison was undertaken with stakeholders at the local authority, significant interested parties and the general public, through a programme of public engagement.

We helped shape two public consultations in November 2021 and July 2022 as well as other complementary activities, such as stakeholder workshops, virtual and in-person exhibitions, and online questionnaires to inform the local community and gain their support. The consultation website received more than 3,980 visits, and we tracked and monitored all answers submitted. This allowed us to forward each comment to the right team for review, action and response, enabling them to provide stakeholders with detailed and helpful answers.

Bringing together diverse expertise to overcome challenges

The project was able to draw upon the wide range of skills that make up our multidisciplinary team, which includes masterplanning, town planning, transport, environmental disciplines, and engineering. Following our work, the LDO was successfully adopted in July 2023, granting permission to turn the power station site into a fit-for-future low carbon energy generation and advanced manufacturing space. 

I’m delighted that the Ratcliffe development order has been approved. Securing new global investment in the region and driving cutting edge green growth are at the heart of the Freeport. The LDO provides greater certainty at the outset for the types of development to be permitted and allows the planning process to be more responsive and agile.

Nora Senior

East Midlands Freeport Chair

Setting an example of collaborative partnerships, the project demonstrates how complex processes can be realised by building trust and working closely with stakeholders. Collaboration was key to helping Uniper and the council to meet an ambitious programme that delivers infrastructure improvements while mitigating potential environmental impacts. Our approach also provides potential investors with a flexible yet robust vision for the site, enabling the project to progress with its sustainable development aims.

Our experience with Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station site and similar projects – such as the award-winning Gravity LDO that we completed in collaboration with Somerset Council – can be transferred to other schemes around the country, enabling the transition to net zero and helping to secure large-scale investment in a multitude of sectors, including energy and advanced manufacturing.

Arup recognises the strategic importance of redeveloping the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station site in the UK’s move towards reaching net zero targets. We’re delighted our work with Uniper on the masterplan, and resulting successful LDO, means the site is now primed for positive transformation.

Richard Bickers

Director and Integrated Planning Business Lead for the North of England