On 20th July the Government set out their plans to reduce water pollution in England with the aim of protecting wildlife sites and creating new habitats. While initial steps have been taken to mitigate the increase in nutrients the new plans aim to fast track progress and resolve the current delays in the planning process.
The plans announced two key areas for change. Firstly, there will be a new legal duty on water companies in England to upgrade wastewater treatment works by 2030 in all nutrient neutrality areas. The aim will be to implement the highest technological levels in those areas. Secondly, a Nutrient Mitigation Scheme will be engineered by Natural England. The Scheme will have the principal aim of helping wildlife and boosting access to nature by making investments in environmental projects. This new initiative will allow local planning authorities (LPA) to grant planning permission for development in areas with nutrient pollution issues, subject to the purchase of nutrient credits, therefore, negating the requirement for on-site mitigation.
The Nutrient Mitigation Scheme will support the investment in new habitats to mitigate the impacts of nutrient pollution. Specifically, the Scheme will create new wetlands and woodlands in partnership with green groups and other privately led nutrient mitigation schemes. Whilst the scheme will be available to all developers, priority will be given to smaller builders who are most affected by the guidance.
This approach will join together the planning process and the existing Environment Agency initiatives to ensure farming practices are more environmentally friendly and sustainable for the long term. New farming schemes will reward farmers and land managers for environmental actions, such as introducing cover crops and buffering rivers to reduce run-off.
Elliot Taylor, Partner and Farm Business Consultant, said: “I welcome this news with some caution. The introduction of a new Nutrient Mitigation Scheme will hopefully start to solve the nutrient neutrality issue, but it will take time to reduce the backlog of planning applications. Nutrient pollution is a particular problem for freshwater habitats and estuaries and it’s good to see a mitigation scheme that will help to protect those important Habitats Sites. I do anticipate that many developers will still require significant help to deliver mitigation on the ground that achieves nutrient neutrality. For those sites where the purchasing of credits is not either feasible or financially viable, we can work with developers and local landowners to help design a successful mitigation strategy.”
Hannah Wafer, Planning Consultant commented “The recent announcement which will enable developers to purchase mitigation credits is a welcomed step. The requirement for developments to deliver on or off-site mitigation is understood to be delaying an estimated 100,000 homes across the country. The scheme will hopefully prevent further substantial delays in the planning process and will be particularly critical for smaller schemes which cannot feasibly deliver their own mitigation.
How can George F. White help?
At George F. White our team of Rural consultants and Planning experts work closely with relevant stakeholders to find solutions to Nutrient Neutrality. Our team of specialists can assess if nutrient loading will be a constraint for a proposed development and establish a strategy for successful mitigation. We can also assess the economic benefits available for farmers and landowners from alternative land use who agree to provide areas for offsetting. The team at George F. White provides a holistic approach making sure development opportunities are unlocked and progressed as quickly as possible whilst maximising values for all concerned.
Call us on 0333 920 2220.