On 16 March 2022 Natural England advised all local authorities within the catchment of the River Tees that the Teesmouth & Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area/Ramsar (SPA) is now considered to be in an unfavourable condition due to nutrient enrichment, in particular with nitrates, which are polluting the protected area.
Whilst this situation has been created by a number of different land uses and management techniques, the Council and other Local Authorities in the Tees Catchment have been advised that we need to consider the nutrient impacts of relevant development.
Developments within the scope of Natural England's advice include anything which creates overnight accommodation, such as:
- new homes
- student accommodation
- care homes
- tourism attractions
- tourist accommodation
This may also include agriculture and commercial development where it has the potential to release nitrogen. Natural England have produced a summary guide including answers to frequently asked questions on their website, and you are asked to review these documents before contacting them directly.
Natural England have suggested that, in many cases, this issue can be tackled through an approach based on the concept of Nutrient Neutrality. A Nutrient Neutrality Budget Calculator (NNBC) tool for the Tees catchment is available which allows a nutrient budget to be established for any development.
The local authorities in the Tees Catchment have commissioned a study which refines the calculator further, in particular the level of additional population generated by new development. This research concluded that in Stockton-on-Tees Borough it is appropriate to use a figure of 0.76 additional people per dwelling instead of the 2.40 'average occupancy rate' figure identified in the original calculator. Natural England have now released version 2.2 of the calculator which can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Darlington Borough Council website.
Once the nutrient budget has been established it is likely that you will need to identify and secure mitigation to address the impact of the development. Mitigation can be provided on-site, off-site or through the purchase of credits from Natural England's Mitigation scheme. This was launched on 27th March 2023. A step-by-step guide to the mitigation scheme can be downloaded below which provides an overview of the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme and a step-by-step guide for how developers can apply for credits. It is anticipiated that this will be available on the Natural England website from 31st March 2023. Natural England have also prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document to help with common questions.