The water environment around the Solent area is recognised as one of the most important for wildlife in the UK. It is protected by water environment, conservation of habitats and species regulations.
The impact of new build development on sites designated as protected must be recognised in all proposals that are subject to local authority planning permissions. These impacts must be addressed in line with Regulation 63 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended).
In 2018 new European case law tightened the requirement to consider the potential impacts of development where there is significant uncertainty around what the impact on the environment might be. In particular, the tightening of the rules has meant that the wastewater implications (nutrient discharge) of new development should be assessed and mitigated – even if there remains uncertainty over the scale of additional discharge.
It is Natural England’s view that there is a likely significant effect on several designated sites (Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Ramsar sites) due to the increase in wastewater from the new developments coming forward. One way to mitigate the likely significant effect is through ensuring development is ‘nutrient neutral’. Advice available from Natural England provides information on both the conservation status of the protected sites and the nutrient neutral approach. Natural England’s Nitrogen Calculator and associated guidance can also be found here.
In light of the advice from Natural England, and associated case law, our aim is to develop a PfSH-wide strategic approach to mitigation in order to achieve nutrient neutral development – and deliver the planned housing development compliant with the Habitats Regulations.
In 2020 PfSH successfully bid for a £2m loan from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) from the Government’s Getting Building Fund to be used to secure off site mitigation land in order to assist in unlocking the delivery of housing which has been on hold due to the nutrient neutrality issue. The Solent LEP has advised that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is its preferred strategic partner to oversee a land use change mitigation scheme funded with the proceeds of PfSH’s bid.
Along with schemes brought forward by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, there are also several other schemes available to mitigate the impact of nutrients for development. A list of potential mitigation schemes can be found here.
In addition to securing funding to facilitate the availability of suitable mitigation sites, PfSH have also employed a Strategic Environmental Planning Officer (SEPO) whose primary objective is to provide a strategic response to the issue of nutrient neutrality across the impacted areas of the Solent. As well as providing a single point of contact to the development industry and landowners who may be able to offer mitigation solutions, the SEPO also monitors the supply and demand relating to nutrient neutrality mitigation and engages with stakeholders to facilitate mitigation schemes coming forward to satisfy demand. A key part of the current work of the SEPO is to promote consistency between local planning authorities regarding the legal process required to secure mitigation through the Planning Process.
Enquiries should be directed to the SEPO, Simon Kennedy, at: email@example.com
The most recent report submitted to the PfSH Joint Committee on 14 February 2022 outlines PfSH’s ongoing response to meeting the nutrient neural approach to housing and development, and can be found here.