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      Nutrient Neutrality Challenges: Key Takeaways for Landowners

      18 months after it was first introduced, there are finally glimmers of hope for landowners and developers affected by Nutrient Neutrality. Planning Partner, Iain Hill, discusses solutions to mitigate the impact of development.

      06 Mar 2024 3 minute read

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      The issue causing major delays

      Since March 2021, the requirement for new planning permissions to demonstrate Nutrient Neutrality has effectively halted development across large parts of Norfolk. This is because there has been uncertainty around how to identify, deliver and secure the necessary mitigation. As a result, developers and landowners have been stuck in limbo, unable to gain approvals for housing projects impacting local habitat sites. However, solutions are starting to come forward after 18 challenging months.

      Encouraging progress on offset solutions

      The first nutrient credits are close to being sold by Norfolk Environmental Credits (NEC), which is an independent not-forprofit entity compromising Breckland Council, Broadland District Council, North Norfolk Council, and South Norfolk Council, that has been set up specifically to enable development to proceed.

      The initial mitigation involves the removal of pigs on land to the south of Norwich, which will reduce the level of nutrients running into rivers, which are protected habitat sites. The land, which can still be used for arable farming, is estimated to provide credits to facilitate the delivery of 5,000 homes. The farmer will be compensated for not being able to keep pigs on the land. As a landowner/developer with an affected development, it would, if you haven’t already, be well worth getting in contact with NEC to register your interest for potential credit purchases. Alternatively, consideration should be given as to whether land could be used to provide mitigation.

      NEC has worked hard to ensure a robust approach, with local authorities closely involved as guarantors to provide credibility.

      We understand the credits will cost approximately £3,500 per home.

      Other credible solutions

      Beyond the progress on credits, there is a discussion to be had around emerging solutions like upgrades to private sewerage systems and retrofitting council housing stock with water efficiency measures. Both approaches show reasonably strong potential to create meaningful headroom for additional housing growth, although there are still complexities around properly securing the mitigation. Nevertheless, the retrofitting programme in Norwich is already up and running.

      The road ahead

      While there is finally light at the end of the tunnel, it is clear some persistent challenges remain around Nutrient Neutrality. In particular, the credible solutions coming through will still take time to deliver mitigation at the pace and scale required to return development to normal levels. As such, I would advise landowners to continue your efforts to identify any potential, on-site mitigation options where feasible, whilst also registering your interest in the emerging offsetting opportunities through NEC as a temporary bridging measure.

      Continued complexities require tailored guidance

      Engaging in professional planning and legal support will help you to understand the implications for any potential housing developments, particularly when it comes to assessing site-specific measures, offsetting strategies, and reputable mitigation options. The outlook is slowly improving but the stakes are still high for landowners and developers across large parts of Norfolk.

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