What Nutrient Neutrality means for developers in the Mease catchment
In March 2022 the local planning authorities received advice from Natural England which confirmed that new development involving overnight accommodation can only now proceed if it achieves ‘nutrient neutrality’.
Nutrient neutrality is a means of ensuring that a development plan or project does not add to existing nutrient burdens within catchments, so there is no net increase in nutrients as a result of the plan or project.
Therefore all new developments involving overnight accommodation (including but not limited to new homes, care homes, tourism accommodation) in the River Mease catchment require nutrient neutrality mitigation measures. This does not include householder developments, e.g. extensions to dwellings, domestic outbuildings.
- Some forms of new development not involving overnight accommodation may also require nutrient neutrality mitigation measures.
- The implication of the advice from Natural England is that the local planning authorities (LPAs) in the River Mease catchment cannot approve developments in the SAC catchment area that would increase foul drainage discharge to the mains sewer from sites comprising overnight accommodation system without nutrient neutrality mitigation measures in place.
- A nutrient neutrality approach is now being rolled out across the Mease catchment to identify possible options for mitigation to ensure sustainable development can proceed, possibly in the form of a third Developer Contribution Scheme. Unfortunately, it is not possible to state how long this may take to resolve. It may be possible for developers to provide their own bespoke nutrient neutrality mitigation measures, e.g. on or off-site constructed wetlands.
- The Nutrient Budget calculator (see link below) provided by Natural England is the first step to understanding 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. Natural England has also provided a guidance document (see below) to help with the completion of the calculator.