Flushing out the phosphate problem or just a pipe dream?


Written by Andrew Tregay

Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

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For some time now planning applications for new residential development across most of Somerset (and in parts of Dorset) within the river catchment of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site have been held up following the Court of Justice’s judgment in the so-called ‘Dutch N’ case[1] relating to a ruling on the interpretation of the Habitats Directive.

This issue is not new to planning or unique to Somerset or Dorset.  Numerous other protected habitats have been affected by excessive nutrients and it is widely accepted that it is incumbent upon the relevant Local Authorities to devise a strategic solution to a complicated problem.  Inevitability this a very time-consuming process.

Rather than simply waiting for a strategic solution, BoonBrown has, in conjunction with Registered Provider Stonewater, been working on a range of on and off-site solutions. Several of these have been presented to Natural England and have been well received.  As such we are now close to unlocking a number of residential development sites.

One such scheme is on a town-centre, brownfield site, and utilises elements of Stonewater’s existing housing stock retrofitted with water savings devices.  This innovative and cost-effective mitigation solution has the added benefit of reducing water consumption for existing tenants who choose to have the devices fitted.

This in turn means there is less water going through the water treatment works thus less phosphates going into the river catchment.  In this way credits can be generated to unlock stalled developments that lie within the same sub-catchment area as the existing stock, whilst at the same time protecting agricultural land from unnecessary fallowing.

We anticipate a decision regarding this innovative mitigation strategy shortly, whereupon Stonewater, in partnership with BoonBrown, will roll out the solution to unlock several other planning applications for much needed housing developments currently delayed by phosphates.

If you have any questions please contact Clive Brown, Matt Frost or Andrew Tregay at BoonBrown.

[1] Joined cases C-293/17 and C-194/17 Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment UA and Others v College van gedeputeerde staten van Limburg and others