Alongside all other local planning authorities in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire, we have received nutrient neutrality notifications from Natural England in relation to the River Mease SAC. We also received a letter from the Government's Chief Planner about the same issue. The advice was issued to us without prior notice.
Nutrient pollution is a big environmental issue for many of our most important places for nature in England. In freshwater habitats and estuaries, increased levels of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) can speed up the growth of certain plants, impacting wildlife. This is called ‘eutrophication’ and it is damaging protected sites. As such, some sites are classified as being in ‘unfavourable condition’.
Natural England have confirmed that development in some catchments, including the catchment areas for the River Mease SAC, cannot proceed if it increases levels of nutrients or results in eutrophication. Development can now only proceed if it is ‘nutrient neutral’.
The Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017 require local planning authorities to ensure that new development does not cause adverse impacts to the integrity of protected habitats, such as the River Mease before granting planning permission. There are no identified mitigation solutions available locally to resolve these impacts.
We are working to understand the advice and its consequences for developments within the River Mease SAC catchment areas. While we assesses the implications of these matters, in the vast majority of cases it cannot lawfully conclude that development within the catchment of the River Mease Special Area of Conservation will not have an adverse effect. Therefore, until these matters are resolved, we will not be able to grant planning permission for developments including (but not limited to) new homes, tourist accommodation and agricultural development. We will work closely with its neighbouring authorities and Natural England to better understand the implications and identify possible options for mitigation to ensure sustainable development can proceed. Unfortunately, it is not possible to state how long this may take to resolve. However, we will keep this web page updated with more information as it becomes available.
Natural England have provided a Nutrient Budget Calculator to help applicants and the Local Planning Authority better understand the nutrient load of a development. It can help identify whether a proposal is likely to add to the nutrient load within the catchment and require mitigation or whether the development can be considered nutrient neutral. In the latter case, where development is nutrient neutral, subject to confirmation from Natural England, such developments can likely be approved without mitigation.
For those with live planning cases, your case officer will be in contact to discuss this with you further.