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Nutrient Neutrality

On 16 March 2022 Allerdale Borough Council received a letter from Natural England concerning nutrient pollution in the protected habitats of the River Derwent & Bassenthwaite Lake Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the River Eden Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The letter advised that within identified catchment areas of these protected habitats certain types of new development such as housing have the potential to cause adverse impacts through nutrient pollution.

The Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017 require local planning authorities to ensure that new development does not cause adverse impacts to protected habitats prior to granting planning permission. As a result, when determining planning applications, the Council must now ensure that relevant developments within the identified catchment areas do not increase nutrient levels, and such development can only proceed if it can be demonstrated to be ‘nutrient neutral’. Information on how this is to be calculated has been supplied to the Council by Natural England. All of the advice received from Natural England is available below. 

Implications for Planning applications

Whilst the Council carefully assesses the consequences of the guidance, it cannot lawfully conclude that relevant development within the identified catchments of these Special Areas of Conservation will not have an adverse effect. Therefore, until these matters are resolved the Council will not be able to grant planning permission for current schemes under consideration or for new proposals within the affected catchments.

Types of Development Affected

  • All types of overnight accommodation including new homes, self-catering and serviced tourist accommodation such as hotels, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, self-catering holiday units, static caravan sites, campsites served by on-site toilet or washing facilities.
  • New tourism development likely to inrease the number of day visitors to premises.
  • Agricultural development that will result in an increase in stock numbers.

The requirement to demonstrate nutrient neutrality applies to all types of planning application relating to these types of development, including reserved matters, prior approval and certificates of lawful development for a proposed use or development. S73 applications to vary permission are also affected in some circumstances.

Areas Affected

In Allerdale parts of the parishes of Boltons, Sebergham, Brigham, Dean, Great Clifton, Greysouthen, Little Clifton, Loweswater and Winscales fall within the identified catchments. The areas affected are shown on the relevant catchment maps for each SAC supplied by Natural England:

River Derwent & Bassenthwaite Lake SAC

River Eden SAC

Planning Application Validation Requirements

When is nutrient neutrality information required before validation?

Nutrient neutrality information is required before an application is validated where a proposed development is within a catchment to which the Natural England nutrient neutrality advice applies and the scheme is for the types of development listed above.

What nutrient neutrality information must be provided?

Nutrient neutrality information must include:

Option 1

  • Completed Natural England nutrient neutrality budget calculator for the relevant catchment; and
  • Nutrient neutrality mitigation strategy; and
  • Shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment

Please note that the nutrient budget calculator is unsuitable for agricultural developments, and a bespoke assessment will be needed.

Option 2

  • Evidence that all proposed thresholds for small discharges to ground as set out in Natural England Nutrient Neutrality Advice are met.

Exceptions to the nutrient neutrality validation requirement.

This validation requirement does not apply to:

  1. Development falling within Use Class B2 or B8 (general industrial or uses)
  2. Development falling within Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service)
  3. Development falling within Use Class F1(a), (d), (e), or (f)
  4. Development falling within Use Class F2(a), (b) or (c)
  5. Development changing between one type of tourism accommodation to another without increasing occupancy (e.g. guesthouse to holiday let)
  6. Householder development 

Will nutrient neutrality information be needed in other circumstances?

Notwithstanding that nutrient neutrality information may not be required to validate some types of application, nutrient neutrality information may still be required during the application process, and planning permission refused in the absence of nutrient neutrality information for developments of the types listed above following a case by case assessment.

What is a Shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment?

A Shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment is an assessment of the impacts of a proposed development in accordance with the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, prepared by a third party, which the Authority may choose to adopt as part of its assessment of an application if it is in agreement with its conclusions.

National Planning Practice Guidance on Habitats Regulations Assessment  provides additional information.

Nutrient Neutrality North West

Nutrient Neutrality North West is a partnership project involving Cumberland Council, Environment Agency, Lake District National Park Authority, Natural England, United Utilities and Westmorland and Furness  Council.  Hosted by the Lake District National Park Authority it has been set up to identify and promote the delivery of practical mitigation options and establish a process to offer mitigation options through credit trading.  Further information is available here .

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