First government-backed nutrient mitigation credits to be available by March

Natural England will approach selected landowners from next month to invite them to offer land as potential nutrient mitigation sites, with the first government-backed credits set to be made available for developers from March 2023 in the Tees catchment.

The government has published more information about its Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, which is intended to unblock the logjam in housing caused by Natural England’s ‘nutrient neutrality’ advice. 

The advice requires that no new developments are approved if they will increase nitrate and phosphate pollution on at-risk protected sites. 

Plans for at least 100,000 homes are on hold as a result, according to an industry body for housebuilders, meanwhile 27 water catchments - including 31 internationally important water bodies and protected sites - are currently in unfavourable status due to nutrient pollution according to DEFRA.

Updated information published by the department states that Natural England is set to invite applications from developers for mitigation credits in the Tees before the end of March 2023, and that it will begin approaching landowners “in a targeted way” to invite them to offer land as potential nutrient mitigation sites from December this year.

The Tees catchment is the location of the first mitigation projects under the new scheme, which DEFRA says are currently being negotiated with two partners. The update adds that investment is also being made in feasibility studies for five more catchments to decide upon the next mitigation sites. ENDS has requested further details from the department about which catchments these are.

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“These sites will start to provide the mitigation needed by local planning authorities and developers, and we will expand across the country to facilitate building thousands of new homes as well as making a major contribution to nature recovery through the creation of new wetlands,” DEFRA said in its update.

It goes on to explain that in the case that demand for credits exceeds supply, “applications will be prioritised to minimise nutrient neutrality related delays to development, to enable development of the most homes most quickly, to facilitate small and medium enterprises, and to support the delivery of affordable and social housing”. 

Information on credit availability and price will be released ahead of the first credit sales, said DEFRA.