Nutrient mitigation scheme to free up protected sites for development

Thrings development of land nutrient mitigation scheme

Developers will soon be able to unlock thousands of new homes on sites across the country through the mitigation of water pollution, following the launch of a new Natural England-led scheme.

The initial round of the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme has now launched, seeking to offset the nitrogen impacts of development in the Tees and Cleveland Coast area, potentially releasing land for up to 1,600 new homes this year.

First announced in July 2022, the £30million initiative, run in partnership with Defra and DLUHC, seeks to tackle the impact of nutrient pollution on freshwater habitats and rivers and the increased ‘load’ generated by additional wastewater of population growth from new housing developments, which in turn is impacting permissions for development in dozens of planning authorities across the country, drastically slowing development.

With the government seeking to fulfil an ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes each year by the mid-2020s, the scheme seeks to mitigate the nutrient impacts of development. It will provide developers with the opportunity to purchase credits which will finance nature-based interventions which reduce nutrient pollution from other land uses and enable developers to achieve ‘nutrient neutrality’.

Following the launch of the scheme, the government has confirmed work is underway to identify the next sites suitable for mitigation projects, with work focussed on areas with the highest housing needs and a call for evidence due to be published this spring. The next two application rounds for credits are due to open in July and October this year, with further rounds to follow in 2024. You can find out more on how to apply here.

Harvey Davies from the Thrings Planning and Environment team, said: “The launch of this scheme in the Tees catchment area will be warmly welcomed by developers seeking to achieve the full potential of their sites whilst being able to meet the increasing environmental requirements demanded of the industry. The government has set lofty targets for housing delivery over the coming years and this is one step towards realising these goals without overwhelming the industry.

“That being said, mitigation is only part of the solution and can only be a temporary measure if housebuilding is to be a sustainable practice in the long term and we look forward to seeing the future measures being introduced that supports developers in protecting the environment whilst creating communities.

“Developers and private landowners may, in the meantime, want to consider a more strategic approach towards nutrient neutrality and biodiversity net gain, particularly given the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme is not yet in effect across the whole country and will, in any event, only be able to meet a relatively small amount of the demand from developers.

“The cessation of certain agricultural activities and other land use changes can generate both nutrient credits and biodiversity units which can be ‘stacked’ and used or sold off to other developers. The creation of a bank of environmental credits will help give developers the consistent supply of mitigation to meet their development aims.”

The Thrings Development of Land team brings together a wealth of experience from residential and commercial development, planning and clean energy sectors. For more information on how our commercially focused approach and our deep, technical and specialist skillsets can make your project an even greater success, get in contact today.

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