Defra Nutrient Mitigation Scheme
The former Councils within Somerset, received details of this national scheme which shall be funded by Defra/Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and implemented by Natural England. The scheme will allow creation of nutrient mitigation habitat which will be valued as nutrient credits. Natural England will then issue nutrient certificates to eligible developers to inform planning applications in areas subject to nutrient neutrality advice.
In their November 2022 update, Natural England is currently identifying places most likely to be suitable for nutrient mitigation provision. From December 2022, they will approach landowners in a targeted way to invite them to offer their land as potential sites for nutrient mitigation. Natural England state that they will launch the scheme by inviting applications from developers for mitigation credits before the end of March 2023. Further details about the Natural England Mitigation Scheme are available in their update.
Ministerial Statement 20 July 2022
The announcement of the Defra Nutrient Mitigation Scheme 20 July 2022 was accompanied by the following Written Ministerial Statement. It outlines a package of further measures to tackle nutrient pollution. It also states that:
- There will be a new legal duty on water companies in England to upgrade wastewater treatment works in ‘nutrient neutrality’ areas to the highest technically achievable limits by 2030. The Government will be tabling an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
- The Government will also be bringing forward proposals to ‘reform’ the Habitats Regulations – further details are awaited.
- Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will revise planning guidance over the Summer. This is to reflect that sites affected by nutrient pollution forming part of housing land supply calculations are capable of being considered deliverable for the purposes of housing land supply calculations. This is subject to relevant evidence to demonstrate deliverability.
- Habitats Regulations Assessment provisions apply to any consent, permission, or other authorisation, this may include post-permission approvals; reserved matters or discharges of conditions. Planning guidance will be amended to confirm this.
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Chief Planner Letter 21 July 2022
The announcement of the Defra Nutrient Mitigation Scheme on 20 July 2022 was accompanied by the following letter from Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. It gives further details of the package of measures announced by Government to tackle nutrient pollution.
It confirms that the national nutrient mitigation scheme will be optional and open to all developers, while making sure Small, Medium Enterprises are prioritised.
The national scheme is intended to ‘dovetail’ with existing private and LPA-led nutrient mitigation schemes. It is envisaged that the scheme will enable LPA’s to grant permission subject to conditions or obligations securing mitigation and phasing development if needed.
As a result of the new legal duty on water companies, the pollution levels after 2030 via wastewater treatment works will be much reduced and so a lower level of mitigation will be required, thus reducing the overall mitigation burden on housing developments.
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will make clear in planning guidance that judgements on deliverability of sites should take account of strategic mitigation scheme. They will also highlight the accelerated timescales for the Natural England’s mitigation schemes and immediate benefits on mitigation burdens once legislation requiring water treatment upgrades come into force.
The letter also provides clarity on various matters and re-states that Habitats Regulations Assessment provisions apply to any consent, permission, or other authorisation. This may include post-permission approvals; reserved matters or discharges of conditions.
Letter to Council Leaders from Secretaries of State for Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Defra 21 July 2022
The following letter to Council Leaders of Local Authorities affected by nutrient pollution was received on 21 July 2022. This letter reiterates the package of measures announced by Government to tackle nutrient pollution. It further states that, longer term, the intention to ‘reform’ the Habitats Regulations so that impacts on protected sites are tackled up front, focusing on what is best for bringing sites back into favourable status.
Letter to Council Leaders
Direction by the Secretary of State to Natural England: 28 July 2022
This direction to Natural England on strategic mitigation scheme is available at GOV.UK – Nutrient pollution: Direction to Natural England on strategic mitigation schemes.