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Nutrients Problems

At HBC Operations and Place Shaping Board's January 28th meeting, the problematic issue was discussed of how the Council can respond to the legal decisions about the need for Nutrient 'Neutrality' now affecting planning decisions. The following are the notes taken by me and another member of a mainland Havant Borough Resident's Association. HBC will of course publish their own Minutes - together with those Councillors & HBC staff present -and please note that the Board's discussion of any Mitigation costs/strategies were held 'in camera' so we, the public, had to leave the room. These are some of our notes:

Reference was made to HBC's letter sent to and asking for clarity from those Government ministers responsible regarding nutrient neutrality [recent legal rulings have delayed Councils' abililty to grant planning permission without showing evidence of mitigating nutrients' adverse effects on the environment]. The letter itself stated that HBC was keen to fulfill its full house-building obligations required by the 5 year land supply rule but is concerned about Government imposing financial penalties for non-compliance. Cllr Pike stated that MPs Mak and Drummond Waterlooville were fully ’on board’ with the aspirations of the letter. Cllr Pike said that HBC wanted to work across the whole of Partnership for South Hampshire (see online, PUSH abbreviation) on this issue. He noted that there were discrepancies between the Agencies that needed to be clarified & that extra moneys would be needed to pay for the additional work on this matter by HBC staff.

In terms of delays caused, he mentioned that the proposed development of about 1000-1200 dwellings was affected, which equated to about £200m of investment delayed. (I think this is across PfSH). This is because of the Grampian Condition (clarified later) & he cited other businesses, hotels & care homes were adversely affected by delay in development (but he didn’t explain how).

[There was discussion of delays in Waterlooville and their financial implications.]

The Chair then put to the vote a request that any discussion on Mitigation Costs [re off-setting nutrient problems] be held in camera, with the public gallery emptied. This was approved, 4-1 (Cllr Rennie being the one dissenter).

One of the Planning Officers, Gill Glover (described by D Hayward as a Water Specialist), then gave a brief explanation of what made up nitrogen nutrients. In brief: man made vs natural origins. The source affects the time-scale of impact therefore previous agricultural practices affect us now. Proportions of origins: approx.. 40% agricultural, 40% coastal background that’s in the water now, 20% urban run-off & sewage treatment. A slide presentation also followed by D. Hayward, depicted 4 aspects of the nutrient issues: Planning; Ecological; Economic; Legal. He summarized the known SPA, Ramsar, SAR characteristics of Langstone & Chich Harbours.

David Hayward, Planning Policy Manager, described the current issues caused by nutrient neutrality -

Most affected were small and medium businesses in HBC

Impact on the ability to provide the right homes at the right places

Brownfield development and regeneration delay of about 100 units pa on brownfield sites

As of April 2019 building agreements have been used up. Incentives to build on smaller sites have been stopped on greenfield including regeneration sites.

He said that the delay is not solving the Europhication of European Sites [I googled this: it means the overloading of seas, lakes, rivers and streams with nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) can result in a series of adverse effects known as eutrophication. Phosphorus is the key nutrient for eutrophication in fresh waters and nitrate is the key substance for salt waters.]

Impact on HBC resources

If mitigation is needed, what will be the cost? What will HBC lose?

Within HBC, David Hayward claimed that 242 units were solely backlogged because of nutrients (2314 units across the Solent area)

And 409 units were significantly backlogged because of nutrients (3974 across the Solent area).

He claimed that speculation is now on non-nutrient sites but did not say where.

He then went onto to show the ‘Workstreams’ for the future –

There was to be a meeting by PUSH on 10/2/20

Also to be considered was strategic mitigation

Review of consents of waste water treatment works to be considered (which would be long term) formal request of Natural England for this; looking at 2 waste water treatment catchments.

Addendum to integrate Water Management Study

An unsuccessful bid to Solent LEP for more money

Discussions with DEFRA and MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Questions from the Board included –

Are HBC continuing to grant planning permission with Grampian conditions? DHayward (DH) said yes, if the applicant chooses to apply that, but the majority of applicants choose to extend the termination dates. In response to Councillor’s request re meaning of Grampian condition: the latter requires the applicant/developer to provide a mitigation package before building commences but HBC can’t yet provide the cost of this so developers are reluctant to accept this condition as part of the granting of planning permission. There can be no planning permission with or without it.

Were there any controls on nitrates on farms? DHayward said there were controls already in place, such as when fields could be manured. Cllr Pike added that Portsmouth Water have done an extensive study of nutrients on farms on the South Downs, saying that it could take about 30 years for water from a field there to reach the Solent. (I don’t know if this was a casual comment, or based on fact). Cllr. Pike stated that as a farmer he must observe “a string of NVZ Nitrogen Vulnerability Zones which dictate the quantity & timing of any eg manure that is placed on fields etc.”

David H emphasized that HBC always check to comply with the HRA (Habitats Regulations Assessment) which requires [I think this is correctly noted!] mitigation “guaranteed in perpetuity for 80 years”: this is non-negotiable i.e. can’t be weighed in the balance with another factor/issue. Also cited Natural England position which requires HRA so that there is Legal Compliance & failure to do so could result in Judicial Review of HBC’s process.

Cllr Robinson was keen to pursue the possible cost / penalty of an applicant going ahead with a development without permission. What would be the position of HBC?

DH said that HBC had not been involved in any such scenario, and Cllr Pike added that if such a case went to appeal, he was confident that the Inspector would back HBC.

DH went on to say that if HBC were to give permission for a development without a clear position on nutrients (Grampian, or any mitigation), he thought the decision would lead to a Judicial Review.

As to any penalties for HBC, he didn’t know.

The question of mitigation cost was then to come up, and the public were asked to leave.

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