POLLUTION concerns which have held up high-profile New Forest planning developments – including three hotel expansions – could be alleviated thanks to a new government scheme.
The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst, Bartley Lodge in Cadnam and Hotel Terravina in Woodlands were among 11 sites for proposed schemes in the Solent coastal area where building work on new homes or extra visitor accommodation was stalled because of worries they would lead to more nitrates in local waters and cause negative environmental effects.
Also held up has been the Filly Inn’s bid for a first-floor extension to create more accommodation and changing the use of a site in Lyndhurst Road, Landford, for two permanent gypsy and/or traveller’s pitches.
However, Defra has now launched a £3.9m scheme that allows developers to buy ‘nitrate credits’ and use them to offset the impacts arising from their developments if they are not nitrate neutral.
In the New Forest national park the money generated could go towards improving waste water treatment works that drain into rivers in Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Sway, Beaulieu and East Boldre.
The new Defra plan has been welcomed by NPA planning chief Steve Avery, who said: “Within the New Forest national park there are several proposals for new housing and visitor accommodation that have stalled due to the requirement for ‘nitrate neutrality’ and this funding will support the delivery of mitigation measures to enable these proposals to be delivered while protecting the Solent coast.”
Among the environmental problems that were being caused was excessive growth of green algae which smothers and damages rare habitats and wildlife, including the Solent’s internationally protected estuaries, salt marshes and seagrass beds, as well as protected birds.
In the summer of 2019 Natural England raised the need for new development to be ‘nitrate neutral’, prompting the NPA to issue a number of planning permissions with a condition that the development permitted shall not be occupied until a mitigation package addressing the additional nutrient input arising from it has been approved.
As well as the ‘nitrate trading platform’ contained within the Defra scheme, developers could instead create new habitats such as meadows, woodlands and wetlands – which will prevent harmful levels of nitrates reaching the Solent’s rare wildlife and habitats.
Debbie Tann, CEO of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “Nitrate pollution in the Solent wreaks havoc with our vital marine ecosystems, suffocating the life out of our seas. Now, thanks to Natural England and Defra, we are taking important steps towards addressing this problem – ensuring that houses can only be built if the nitrate impact is properly addressed.”