House-building in Havant and neighbouring boroughs of Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and East Hampshire has effectively been difficult since 2019 when Natural England demanded new measures to prevent pollution in the Solent.
It then ground to a halt in March this year when, with no warning, Natural England changed the rules on how nutrient neutrality is measured.
Nutrient pollution is a particular problem for freshwater habitats and estuaries. Increased levels of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) can speed up the growth of certain plants, disrupting natural processes and impacting wildlife. This process damages water dependent sites, harming plants and wildlife, and affects the oxygen carrying capacity of the water. The sources of excess nutrients are predominantly wastewater treatment works and agricultural pollution.
When the rules changed in March, councils were obliged to pause all housing development until they could ensure the nutrient loads from new housing could be effectively offset. Natural England’s new rules meant that each new development is now measured against a nutrient budget, and this has required new research.
Havant Borough Council says that it has now completed the necessary studies to clear the way for development. It commissioned an analysis of its nutrient mitigation scheme at Warblington Farm Nature Reserve and validated its capability to provide a valuable mitigation resource.
Additionally, in consultation with neighbouring local authorities, the council plans to address how to form a relationship with Natural England to remove the risk of future shock changes to guidance.
Councillor Alex Rennie, leader of Havant Borough Council, said: “I’m delighted to see that the block to housing development in the borough has been removed, and grateful to council officers for their considerable work to achieve this goal. The impact of the unannounced changes by Natural England created unwanted and unnecessary pressure on the council, developers and residents alike. I look forward to more open dialogues in the future with Natural England to ensure we can develop housing in an effective and environmentally-aware manner.”