Position Statement regarding Nutrient Neutrality (March 2022)
Due to the impacts of eutrophication upon the protected sites of the Solent, Natural England have issued guidance requiring all developments within the Solent area which would generate new and additional overnight accommodation to be 'nutrient neutral'. This includes all residential proposals, tourist accommodation, visitor attractions and permitted development which would draw additional people into the catchment, with the guidance addressing any land use changes and wastewater generation which may cause an increase in nutrient loading. Certain commercial and industrial activities which use large volumes of water may also be required to be nutrient neutral.
In order to be granted planning permission, the above forms of development will need to submit a 'nutrient budget' for their proposal, demonstrating how their proposal is nutrient neutral, or can be made neutral through the securing of appropriate upfront mitigation.
In March 2022, Natural England issued updated national guidance and tools for addressing nutrient neutrality, links to which can be found in the following sections.
The importance of the Solent for wildlife
The Solent is internationally important for its wildlife. Each winter, it hosts over 90,000 waders and wildfowl including 10 per cent of the global population of Brent geese. These birds come from as far as Siberia to feed and roost before returning to their summer habitats to breed.
There are also plants, habitats and other animals within the Solent which are of both national and international importance.
In light of their importance, areas within the Solent have been specially designated under UK/European law. Amongst the most significant designations are Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). These are often referred to as Protected Sites (PS).
When deciding planning applications a legal duty is placed on the Council, as Local Planning Authority (LPA) to consider whether any impacts from new developments are likely to have a significant effect upon these PS. This process is known as a Habitat Regulations Assessment.
Elevated levels of nutrients within the Solent pose a threat to the integrity of a number of , and therefore nutrient neutrality is required to ensure that additional development doesn't exacerbate the unfavourable condition.
What is a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)?
This is a formal process to assess the implications of any planning proposals that are likely to have a significant effect upon Protected Sites. The assessment is undertaken by councils before any planning decision is made.
The first stage of the HRA process involves formally screening a planning proposal to decide whether or not it will have a likely significant effect upon a PS.
Where a likely significant effect cannot be excluded, the LPA is required to assess the effects in detail through an Appropriate Assessment. This Assessment is to establish whether an adverse effect on a PS can be ruled out or addressed through mitigation.
After the LPA has undertaken an Appropriate Assessment, it is required to consult Natural England on the Appropriate Assessment it has undertaken.
How to demonstrate nutrient neutrality?
In order to be granted planning permission, applicants for the above forms of development will need to submit a 'nutrient budget' relating to their proposal, demonstrating how their proposal is nutrient neutral, or can be made neutral through the securing of appropriate upfront mitigation.
Applications should be accompanied by a nutrient budget calculation based on the prepared by Natural England and supported with . Further information on achieving nutrient neutrality can be found within Natural England's , and the .
When preparing a nutrient budget applicants should be aware that all development in Gosport is within the East Hampshire Operational Catchment and will drain to the Peel Common Wastewater Treatment Works, unless an onsite option is agreed. The 'deductible acceptable loading' tab should be set to yes for all developments within the Borough, unless, in the unlikely situation that water is being drawn in from outside the East Hampshire Catchment. The adopted Local Plan includes the optional water efficiency standard of 110 litres per person per day for all residential developments, however for the purposes of drawing up a nutrient budget a buffer figure of 120 litres per person per day should be used. As shown within the link in the calculator, the eastern half of the Borough is within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ). The annual average rainfall throughout the Borough is currently within the 700.1-750 mm range and the soil type within the Borough is one of three types, which are:
- sand dune soils (freely draining)
- freely draining slightly acid loamy soils (freely draining)
- slowly permeable seasonally wet slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils (impeded draining)
In terms of mitigation a number of mitigation schemes are now coming forward, where mitigation is being achieved by taking land out of agricultural use and putting the land to alternative uses including re-wilding and tree planting. To mitigate developments in Gosport, mitigation schemes must either be within the East Hampshire Catchment or be in an area of the Isle of Wight which drains into the Solent. Please refer to the methodology and nutrient neutrality principles document for further information on suitable mitigation.
The Partnership for South Hampshire have provided a list of potential nutrient mitigation schemes www.push.gov.uk/work/mitigation-schemes-available-to-developers/ that are available for developers in South Hampshire. Schemes which are suitable for mitigating developments in Gosport would need to be within the East Hampshire catchment, and where applicable, serve the Peel Common Wastewater Treatment Works.
The use of constructed wetlands is another option for providing nutrient mitigation. Such wetlands should be constructed according to the approved Wetland Mitigation Framework, which can be found on the Constructed Wetland Hub, under the 'Designing for Nutrient Neutrality' tab.
Gosport Borough Council has entered into legal agreements with three landowners outside of the Borough who are willing to make their land available for nitrate mitigation, and who have received approval from Natural England. These legal agreements enable applicants bringing forward development within Gosport using sites outside of the Borough for mitigation. The Council is in continuing dialogue with other landowners about the prospect of bringing further mitigation proposals forward.
Details of the three mitigation schemes that are covered by existing legal agreements are:
Heaton Farms - Contact Andrew Heaton: email@example.com
Meon Springs (Whitewool Stream Wetland) - Contact Jamie Butler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Warnford Park Estate - Contact Mark Budden: email@example.com
How to secure mitigation?
For the Council, as Local Planning Authority, to support schemes using the above mitigation providers, applicants will need to submit evidence to demonstrate that the required level of mitigation for their development has been secured. This evidence is essential to allow the completion of an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Regulations and come to a positive conclusion in respect of the nitrates issue. This evidence should be in the form of either a "Notice of Purchase", "Allocation Agreement" or "Relevant Allocation Agreement" from the mitigation provider (please see the legal agreement for the relevant mitigation scheme for definitions of these documents).