Basingstoke and Deane announces nitrate pollution housing moratorium

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

Basingstoke: Council puts residential planning decisions on hold. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Basingstoke: Council puts residential planning decisions on hold. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has announced that it will not issue decisions on planning applications for housing in areas where wastewater could affect environmentally-protected areas in the Solent region.

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 and the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation.

Basingstoke and Deane joins 11 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 agency has told councils that granting permission for schemes that are not nitrate neutral could contravene EU habitats regulations.

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".

In August, Portsmouth City Council proposed a "nitrate banking" scheme in a bid to offset the impact of new development by improving water efficiency in existing dwellings.

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.

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. 

A Planning feature looking at the impact of the nitrates crisis on planning and development in Hampshire can be found here.

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