The Solent is polluted and local councils have a legal obligation to improve the quality of it.
The level of nitrates is one pollutant which causes an algal bloom on mud which suffocates worms and other invertebrates which are an important source of food for wildlife. The main sources of nitrates are fertiliser run off from farms and human wastewater from houses.
People do need new homes but house building around the Solent is on hold as this would increase the amount of nitrate entering the Solent.
There is no government strategy in place to resolve this impasse. Although I wouldn’t put it past them to relax the rules and sacrifice the environment even more.
Options include reducing farming activity. But as we are leaving the EU and we already grow less than half of the food we eat, this does not look like a good long term option.
This is however the approach not only supported by Fareham MP (and Attorney General) Suella Braverman, but also by Cllr.Woodward, leader of Fareham council.
He would like to see the fines imposed on Southern Water for failures of its pollution control, to be used to buy farmland and stop farming. This would allow houses to be built using up the “nitrate credit” from reduced farming. In effect, subsidising rich builders to get even richer.
But this approach does not meet the legal requirement to IMPROVE the bad environment. Commenting on a recent planning appeal in Warsash, the inspector said he was not convinced that this mitigation of nitrate levels would work in “perpetuity”. My interpretation of his words is that he thinks once houses are built the nitrate issue may be quietly brushed under the carpet.
A better approach would be to invest in removing the nitrates from the waste water (both human and farm). The recovered nitrate could be recycled back into fertiliser and sold. The environment improves and everyone is happy. Pie in the sky? Why not? I’ve seen more difficult pies than this baked.
One thing we now know without a doubt, is that the environment needs care. It’s the only one we’ve got.