The nutrient neutrality issue
Excesses of nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates making their way into bodies of water is a well-documented problem, and the waterways and coastlines of the Solent region, which are protected under a variety of legislation thanks to their internationally important ecology, are far from an exception.
Nutrients from different man-made sources, including agricultural fertilizers and household wastewater, enter waterways through a variety of means, such as direct drainage and groundwater run-off. Once these nutrients make their way into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, the effects can be seriously problematic for local wildlife.
One such problem faced as a result of excessive nutrients in waterways is the growth of thick layers of algae, which deprive the plants beneath of light, reducing levels of oxygen in the water, and causing disruption to the ecosystems they affect.
The development challenge
New development is vital for the Solent region and with Hampshire’s population projected to reach 1.48 million by 2036, (ONS, 2016), the need for new housing is well established. However, with future developments expected to be one of the significant contributors to nitrogen pollution in the Solent’s waterways, developers in the region face a significant challenge in managing unwanted pollution from their sites.
Any mitigation approach that a developer takes should also be specific to the waterways they are most likely to affect. The Solent region is made up of six ‘fluvial catchment’ zones that indicate which areas of land affect which waterways – developers should make sure that their nutrient offsetting efforts occur within the same region as their developments.
Eastleigh Borough Council's response
In response to the impact of nitrate pollutants, and to help ensure that developments achieve nutrient neutrality, Eastleigh Borough Council has put a scheme in place so that developers can offset excess nutrient outputs against Council-owned land through the purchase of nitrate credits.
The initiative is a key part of Eastleigh Borough Council’s Climate Change and Environmental Emergency action plan, and supports the Housing Development and Healthy Communities themes outlined in the Council’s Corporate Action Plan 2015 - 2025.
Nitrate Credit Availability
|Land area (Ha)||66.4||41.2||27||103.4|
The Council's nitrate offer
Eastleigh Borough Council currently presides over 238 hectares of mitigation land, worth a total of 11,354 credits (1 credit = 1 kilogram of nitrates per year). The cost per credit is £3000 + VAT. We will also require an undertaking for our legal and administrative costs.
To date the nitrate credits being made available by Eastleigh Borough Council are all through the cessation of farming practices and do not rely on any proactive interventions ie creation of wetland, planting of woodland, installation of nitrate retaining SUDs features or the like.
Legal agreement structure
Enforcement provisions for our scheme are secured via a Section 33 Agreement directly between EBC and those LA’s that wish to access the scheme for development in their area. This legal structure removes the need for the offset provider to enter S106 agreements for individual projects saving time and cost for the developer. To date, S33’s have been entered with WCC, NFDC, NFNP and EHDC.
How to Apply
To begin the process of purchasing nitrate credits from Eastleigh Borough Council, please fill out the Nitrate Scheme Expression of Interest Form and return to email@example.com.
Once an Expression of Interest form has been received, we will confirm whether credits are available to meet anticipated need, so that the process below can be followed:
- Developer & Local Planning Authority go through planning process as usual.
- Local Planning Authority confirms offset requirement and suitability of Eastleigh Borough Council scheme to Eastleigh Borough Council.
- Eastleigh Borough Council confirms credits are still available.
- Local Planning Authority grants consent (probably with a pre-start or Grampian condition relating to nitrate mitigation.
- Developer buys credits from Eastleigh Borough Council.
- Eastleigh Borough Council issues vesting certificate to developer.
- Developer applies to Local Planning Authority for discharge of condition.
Phosphate Offset Scheme
The Council also has a limited number of phosphate credits available for purchase within the Itchen catchment, at a cost of £4500 plus VAT per dwelling.