Five councils, including Fareham, Portsmouth and Gosport have agreed to halt acceptance of planning permissions, following advice from Natural England. This decision comes after Natural England has determined that the nitrate level in the Solent is too high and the property developments are only accelerating this issue.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates are chemicals found in agriculture and domestic waste water caused by sewage systems, inorganic fertilisers and farming to name a few.
The high level of nitrates leads to the development of green algae which starves a body of water of oxygen resulting in fatalities to marine life and birds alike.
Nitrogen is naturally present in soil and water but developments on these soils disrupt it and release excess nitrogen into the air and waters.
Nitrogen in water is dangerous to plants, animals and humans. High levels of nitrogen in our drinking water can be hazardous as it restricts oxygen flow in the bloodstream around the body.
What will help?
The creation of small wetlands, cover cropping, catch cropping, nutrient budgeting and precision applications may support nitrate eradication.
Farming industries can reduce nitrate leaking into water courses via the two main routes; fertilisers and cattle/cows. This can be easily condensed by a reduction in the use of fertilisers for crops or using those that have a weaker nitrate concentration. Water courses that run over farmland should be ring fenced from cattle access to prevent pollution via animal waste.
Impact on supply chains
With developers going full steam ahead on projects that have been in the making for months/years, construction materials may have already been ordered for building works that are now not going to get planning permission approved due to not being ‘nitrate neutral’. Even though nitrate neutrality has been suggested, it is almost impossible to achieve and the chances are that local authorities do not have the expertise to analyse the nitrate footprint of such developments and so would refuse permission.
Larger development companies along with independent businesses that are trying to provide affordable housing or, in fact, any housing for the region, are effectively being persecuted.
Following this issue, construction materials that have been ordered will be delivered and will have to be paid for, and many orders will be cancelled or put on hold. This will subsequently cause cashflow issues for some businesses, and there will be a reduction in production of construction materials as less is sold.
No credible solution has been suggested to the public/developers/industry. Many solutions have been put forward to local authorities from developers, with none yet being accepted. There are many differing opinions on this matter, and the finger could be pointed in many a direction; but without a full-scale investigation by Whitehall or Natural England there is unlikely to be any progress.
What happens next?
A major manifesto pledge for both Conservative and Labour parties have been the housebuilding targets. These will likely not be met now in the areas of which the above has been implemented. As a region we are already behind on our targets.
The ongoing issue with nitrate pollution within the region is only going to create stagnation within local industry and increase pressure on both residential housing and proposed commercial development. The region is already suffering from a shortfall in quality commercial office space and from affordable residential homes; by preventing development altogether, while not actually identifying the main reason for the increased nitrate level, nor identifying any reasonable and pragmatic way of solving this issue, we are left in a state of limbo.
What do you think? How could developers become ‘nitrate neutral’?