Nutrient neutrality moratorium lifted in Poole Harbour catchment

24 May, 2024

Nutrient neutrality moratorium lifted in Poole Harbour catchment

Natural England officially lifts its nutrient neutrality advice for phosphorus in the Poole Catchment area.

In a letter written to Dorset Council on 24 May 2024, Natural England confirms that neutrality for phosphorus is no longer necessary.

The update comes as Defra publishes a list of 140 wastewater works that must be updated, including seven treatment works in the Poole Harbour Catchment.

The impact of the wastewater treatment updates in the Poole Harbour area will be so significant that they phosphorus levels will reduce in line with conservation objectives. As a result, home builders will no longer need to mitigate for phosphorus. However, nitrogen mitigation will still be required.

Natural England has updated its nutrient budget calculators to reflect the new permit levels. For Poole Harbour the calculator now only relates to nitrates (and no longer phosphates).

While this is welcome news for industry, more action is required to improve the conditions on the remaining 26 catchments where home building is currently on hold.

Despite evidence that home building contributes less than 1% of total nitrogen emissions a year, 160,000 homes currently estimated to be held up by the disproportionate moratorium on house building. As planning approvals to plummet to record lows and housing supply levels continue to fall sharply, addressing this must be a priority for the next government.

James Stevens, Director for Cities at the Home Builders Federation, said: “The nutrients resulting from the occupancy of new homes is a tiny contributor to nutrient levels in rivers and water bodies and amidst an acute housing crisis this is a welcome step forward.

“We hope that by working together and managing the actual causes of the issue, the Environment Agency and Natural England can lift these unnecessary restrictions in other areas to allow the homes we desperately need to be built.”

HBF continues to engage with Natural England and Defra on the issue.

Natural England's Letter to Dorset Council

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