The water environment within the Solent region is one of the most important for wildlife in the United Kingdom. There are high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus input to this water environment causing algal blooms which suffocate much of the invertebrate life with knock on effects on other wildlife. Whilst the biggest contributor to the nitrate is agriculture, a bigger population also causes an increase in nitrogen discharges.
Since a European court case in 2019, planning authorities have to ensure that any new housing development within 5.6k of the Solent EU protected sites does not add to the nitrates by applying mitigating options elsewhere. This has caused development to stall across the south coast including all of Fareham Borough.
The Conservative Government is applying pressure on local planning authorities to “build,build,build” whilst another arm of the same Government, the Environment Agency, is insisting that the planning authorities first satisfy themselves that there will be no harm to the protected sites from further development.
Fareham Borough Council has been working with Natural England to find a solution to get building started again. These include:-
- A £2.3m grant from the Government to provide mitigation
- Delegating authority to one Officer for many of the stalled applications, thus removing democratic oversight
- Signing a legal agreement with Hampshire Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) to use land they have bought and taken out of agriculture and using the reduced nitrates to sell offsetting ‘credits’ to developers to enable them to build
Planning decisions have re-started and the majority Conservative party are voting unanimously to approve. The Lib Dem (and Independent) Councillors have fought to stop these developments being approved until more robust mitigation is applied. They have also worked hard to delay a decision on signing the (HIWWT) legal agreement and voted against the delegated officer authority being extended. Unfortunately, it’s all about the numbers. More Lib Dem Councillors are needed for us to make a difference and stand a chance of winning these arguments to save our environment rather than putting more money into the pockets of developers.