Until fairly recently, the term nutrient neutrality wasn’t something I had heard about. I first became aware of this term after a South Norfolk resident emailed me about their planning application which could be refused due to this planning condition flagged up by Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the natural environment in England.
Simply put, nutrient neutrality is about maintaining our rivers, lakes and waterways so that they do not get overloaded with the kind of undesirable nutrients which come via sewage treatment, septic water tanks, livestock, arable farming and industrial processes.
A source tells me that South Norfolk would have had a Habitats Regulations Assessment done as the ‘Competent Authority’ and Natural England have pointed out South Norfolk’s obligation to not grant planning permissions. It turns out a lot of planning applications have now been put on hold as South Norfolk (along with other counties around England) gets to grips with what this means for their waterways.
So when South Norfolk looks to grant planning applications, they must also assess how new builds will affect the delicate state of our waterways. It means applications must be scrutinised to ensure extra wastewater from new housing, for example, does not impact on the natural environment.
South Norfolk has to take steps to mitigate water management so that the environment is affected as little as possible. Natural England say, in their own words, “Natural England’s advice comes with tools and guidance to help developments demonstrate that they do no harm, so that they can go ahead. We call this approach ‘nutrient neutrality’.”
Of course this has now had a big knock on effect on any new developments and there is currently no time line as to when this issue will be resolved.
While it may come as an inconvenience to developers big or small, it is right and essential that any development is subjected to careful scrutiny and judged on how waste water will be dealt with. We know that many people are fearful of the damage we have already done to our planet; this seems a small ask to ensure South Norfolk is doing what it must to protect our natural environment too.