Nitrates crisis: Housing freeze spreads to north Hampshire

A north Hampshire council has become the latest local authority to impose a moratorium on residential planning decisions due to concerns from Natural England over nitrate pollution affecting protected sites.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council announced this week that it will not issue decisions on planning applications for housing in areas where wastewater could affect parts of the Solent region – home to EU legally protected sites.

The local authority said its decision was made after Natural England warned that a proposed housing scheme in the borough could have "significant effects" on the Solent and Southampton Water Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

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The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/1012)

In force/
Current
Legislation
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales
Published
09 Jan 2018

Commentary

02/11/2017 An explanatory memorandum was published alongside these Regulations., 20/11/2017 A correction slip was published.
10/12/2018 Amending Regulations (SI 2018/1307) published., 19/03/2019 Amending Regulations ( SI 2019/579) published.

Compliance Dates

30/11/2017 Comes into force

Characteristics

Subject

Land and development Wildlife and conservation

Source

OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

Affected Sectors

Cross-sector Agriculture Animal Boarding and Pest Control Fishing and aquaculture Forestry Water Electricity Gas Construction Transport Road Transport Consultancy Offices Real Estate and Public Administration Public Sector Conservation Land Management and Landscaping
ECM

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/1012)

Document Status: In force/Current

Scope: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, UK, Wales

Commentary:

02/11/2017 An explanatory memorandum was published alongside these Regulations., 20/11/2017 A correction slip was published.
10/12/2018 Amending Regulations (SI 2018/1307) published., 19/03/2019 Amending Regulations ( SI 2019/579) published.

Compliance:

30/11/2017 Comes into force

Basingstoke and Deane joins 11 other local authorities in south Hampshire that have already put on hold planning decisions in the wake of Natural England’s advice that residential developments in the region must be "nitrate neutral". The regulator has told councils that granting permission for schemes that are not nitrate neutral could contravene EU habitats regulations.

Sites across the Solent are in ”unfavourable condition” – where green algae cover is greater than 75%  – due to agricultural runoff and wastewater from treatment works. This has lead to eutrophication negatively impacting the Solent’s protected habitats and bird species, which Natural England wants to see reversed. 

Seán Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council and chairman of the PUSH group of 11 South Hampshire local authorities, has described the impact of Natural England’s advice as "colossal" and advised that plans for 10,000 homes have been placed in limbo.

Tim Burden, director at consultancy Turley, said Basingstoke and Deane’s decision showed the problem was "slowly creeping northwards" and called on Natural England and the government "to proactively suggest solutions".

Basingstoke and Deane Council said its officers would "continue to liaise with Natural England to understand the specific issues" and that guidance would be issued to applicants and residents "as soon as more specific advice is received".

"In the meantime, the council will not issue decisions for new residential development in the relevant catchment areas ... unless Natural England have been consulted and confirmed no objection to the proposed development," it said.

The authority added that it was "seeking a map that can be published of the relevant catchment area from Natural England".

The council was asked for details on the affected areas but it had not responded by the time of publication. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to comment due to purdah restrictions. 

Last month, ENDS revealed that New Forest District Council plans to pursue a nitrates credit route system to offset nitrate increases resulting from development, joining other councils such as Havant, East Hants, Eastleigh, Portsmouth and Gosport.

Planning officers at Fareham Borough Council this week recommended that plans for 27 homes be approved, on the basis that an appropriate assessment is conducted in consultation with Natural England in relation to the scheme's impact on the Solent's protected sites.

A version of this article first appeared in ENDS's sister title Planning

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