Efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in our waterways and unlock housebuilding have been stepped up today with the launch of Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme.
Opening today (31st March), developers in the Tees and Cleveland Coast catchment will be able to apply for credits to offset the small impact of development and create new wildlife habitats, such as wetlands. Natural England has already invested in land which will provide the first credits in the Tees catchment to unlock up to 1,600 homes this year.
Polluting nitrate and phosphate nutrients come from a wide range of sources including sewage treatment works, septic tanks, livestock, arable farming and industrial processes and causes serious damage to waterways and wetlands, affecting the quality of life for people who live nearby.
Extra wastewater from residents in new housing developments can put additional pressures on these waterbodies, particularly ones that are already in a fragile or failing condition, but when development is designed alongside suitable mitigation measures, that additional damage caused by new residents can be avoided.
Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England, said:
Our wetlands and estuaries provide huge benefits to people as places for recreation and to enjoy wildlife. But these precious places are being seriously damaged by pollution.
If we are to see nature recovery in action, we must first protect these internationally renowned places. Our new mitigation scheme will help improve our natural environment and allow the houses we need to be built.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
Nutrient pollution can harm wildlife in our waterways and poses a real threat to our protected sites for nature.
This scheme will facilitate the delivery of hundreds of new homes in the Tees area and more across the country – and promote access to green space, and make a major contribution to nature recovery.
The Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, first announced in July 2022, is led by Natural England in partnership with Defra and DHLUC. The scheme is being supported by up to £30 million investment from the government to speed up delivery. With the Teesside scheme now live, work is continuing to identify the next sites suitable for mitigation projects with efforts focussed on areas with the highest housing needs. This will unlock development of new housing in other parts of the country and help to drive nature recovery in areas where there are high levels of nitrate and phosphate pollution.
In the Spring Budget 2023, the government announced it will soon publish a call for evidence from affected local authorities on local mitigation project opportunities. The government remains committed to providing investment to accelerate the delivery of high-quality credit schemes when they are presented.