Nutrient neutrality advice
In March 2022 Natural England identified the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area (SPA) as being in an unfavourable condition due to nutrient pollution, specifically nitrogen.
The whole of the Darlington Borough is located within the identified catchment area of the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast SPA, which is the whole River Tees.
What does this mean?
To comply with Habitats Regulations Local Planning authorities falling with the catchment area of the SPA must:
- carefully consider the nutrient impacts of any projects (including new development proposals), on the SPA.
- consider whether those impacts may have an adverse effect on the integrity of the site that requires mitigation.
- consider if the mitigation proposed ensures the development is nutrient neutral
What types of development are affected?
- anything which creates additional overnight accommodation such as new homes and tourism accommodation.
- It may also include commercial and agriculture development.
Natural England have produced a list of FAQS which provides further advice.
Natural England has produced a Nutrient Neutrality tool [excel document] for the Tees Catchment.
- should be completed to establish the nutrient budget for any applicable development proposal
- should be accompanied with evidence of how the proposal will achieve nutrient neutrality which is no increase in nitrogen discharge into watercourses.
It is likely that mitigation will need to be identified and secured to address the impact of the development. Mitigation can be provided on site or off site
Applications are unable to be determined without full consideration of the above.
Average Occupancy Rate
When deciding the figure to assess population growth coming from new dwellings in Darlington Borough, the Local Planning Authority has been mindful of the requirement of the Habitat Regulations. They have also needed to employ a precautionary approach to make sure that the methodology taken is reasonable and would prevent an impact on the SPA.
Within the 2011-2021 baseline period each new dwelling in Darlington yielded an average of 0.64 persons per dwelling. Applying a sensitivity test of +10% would increase that growth to 0.77 (figures 7 and 8, ORS report). This is less precautionary than the Adopted Local Plan’s gain over the Plan period of 0.98 persons per dwelling.
Research shows that for the Borough, if we used the baseline period of 2011-2021, it would show an increase of 0.64. The highest 5-year average would show an increase of 1.1 per dwelling. Due to recent accelerated growth, (which was partly down to a period of constraint), it suggests that the highest 5-year average is not a resilient figure. It also suggests that a more appropriate approach would be to use the recently adopted annual housing requirement as indicated in the Local Plan. This indicates a gain of 0.98 persons per dwelling.
Rather than simply apply a 10% buffer to the average population growth Darlington Borough Council have, in line with the Habitat Regulations, opted to follow a precautionary approach (which will be subject to future reviews). The Council has resolved to use the figure of 0.98 persons per dwelling derived from the ‘adopted annual housing requirement’ in the Darlington Borough Local Plan with a 10% buffer applied.
It is considered that such an approach gives a robust evidenced based method, and that a local population growth figure of 1.1 persons per dwelling for Darlington is more appropriate than Natural England’s ‘starting point’ of 2.4 persons per new dwelling.
- You may wish to consider ways in which your development could reduce the water usage lower than the 120 litres per person per day (which is used in the calculator).
- Lower water usage rates should be evidenced properly and submitted with your completed budget calculator.
Natural England - Tees Catchment Nutrient Mitigation Credit Scheme
Natural England recently launched a scheme where developers can purchase nutrient credits to mitigate any additional nutrient pollution a development proposal will create.
Credits are expected to be released in tranches with the first tranche launched on the 28th March 2023. Further information on the credit scheme is available on Natural England’s Website and in the Step-by Step Guidance Document [pdf document, external].
Contact for Nutrient Mitigation Scheme – [email protected]
(They expect a high volume of emails so there may be a delay in response).
- Nutrient Neutrality and Nutrient Mitigation: Summary Guide and FAQS [external pdf]
- Overview of the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme
- Step by step guide on how developers apply for credits
- FAQ’s about the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme and the Tees Catchment Credit Scheme Launch