Housing developer fails to mitigate environmental harm

The challenges of securing planning permission for housing close to a protected marine habitat were highlighted in an inspector's decision to refuse an outline proposal for 100 houses on former horticultural land included within a strategic housing allocation in a Hampshire town.

The main issue concerned the potential for the development to have likely significant effects on the integrity of SPA, SAC and Ramsar sites, principally from nutrients via waste water and recreational disturbance. The inspector was satisfied that potential recreational disturbance and air pollution were matters that had been satisfactorily addressed.   

In respect of waste water, the developer had followed Natural England’s advice note on Achieving Nutrient Neutrality for New Development in the Solent Region published in June 2019, to propose mitigation involving offsetting nitrogen generated by the development by taking agricultural land out of production, including the appeal site. Rejecting a third party challenge to the legality of Natural England’s advice, and stating the methodology it outlined was based on the best available scientific evidence, the inspector considered it to be the correct approach for the purposes of appropriate assessment under the Habitats Regulations. However, he disagreed that the whole of the appeal site could be classified as horticultural or that such a use of the land would ever resume. As the submitted unilateral undertaking was underpinned by this assumption, the inspector concluded the required mitigation would not be secured. He also rejected the council’s suggested alternative of a Grampian condition linked to an emerging nitrate solution strategy, while acknowledging that the need to mitigate against the adverse effect of nutrients had provided a challenge to the delivery of housing in the council area.

Inspector: Benjamin Webb; Hearing

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