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Planning Consents on the Somerset Levels

February 2022

Development and planning experts at Greenslade Taylor Hunt are seeking to reassure landowners and developers with sites within the Somerset Levels catchment area about what action they can take to preserve planning permissions in the area.

Currently there is a log-jam of planning applications caused by the Dutch N court ruling.

Planning decisions in parts of Somerset have stalled as a result of concerns from Natural England about high amounts of phosphates on the Somerset Levels and Moors. This area is covered by all four district councils – Taunton and Somerset West, Mendip, South Somerset and Sedgemoor.

Natural England wrote to Somerset’s district councils in October 2020 following the Dutch N court ruling concerning the level of phosphates present within protected Ramsar sites across the UK and Europe.

Around 8,000 planned homes on the Levels have been affected by the ruling.

However it is not just new applications which have been hit by the decision. Planning consents that were granted before Natural England issued its advice are also being held up.

In particular pre-commencement conditions, which usually require extra details to be submitted to the relevant local planning authority before work can start on a project, are in abeyance. In some cases permissions may expire.

However, help is at hand. Planning professionals at Greenslade Taylor Hunt can help applicants through the process to discharge those planning conditions and submit the information needed to assess whether a Habitat Regulations Assessment is required.

They can also help with renewing applications to increase the amount of time allowed before the start of development.
Currently it is unclear when the issue will be resolved, though the councils have worked together to produce a phosphate calculator to help developers mitigate phosphate concerns, but this has not been finalised.

To enable planning applications to be approved and appropriate assessments to be concluded favourably, it must be proved beyond reasonable scientific doubt that phosphate neutral development will be delivered.

While a solution may not be immediately obvious the experienced professionals at Greenslade Taylor Hunt can help landowners and developers navigate this complex situation and renew, preserve or extend planning consents. For an initial chat please call 01823 334466 or email


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