Many readers will be familiar with the issues surrounding nutrient neutrality if they are trying to erect agricultural buildings or build houses. As a result of the ruling in the Dutch N case, the proper interpretation of habitat regulations means that the relevant development project cannot proceed unless it is demonstrated that it would be ‘neutral’ in terms of nutrient outputs.

This is designed to not adversely impact any protected sites such as the Somerset Levels. In recent years, there has been a hold up with local planning authorities unwilling to offer consent to developers and farmers who have been caught up in the middle, due to the nature of their activities releasing nutrients into delicate ecosystems.

In order to find a resolution, EnTrade agreed a framework with some local planning authorities and have been setting up reverse auctions for farmers to tender and offer temporary solutions for nutrient offsetting, such as fallowing productive land. This has been slow progress but we understand Entrade will commence trading this year.  Furthermore, DEFRA have recently announced funding support for Natural England to establish a strategic programme of nutrient offsetting.

The Secretary of State has issued direct instructions to Natural England to ‘prepare, facilitate and administer the operation of strategic mitigation schemes in any or all of the catchments where at the date of this direction there are restrictions on development because of concerns in relation to nutrient pollution.’  

Natural England is therefore to accredit the mitigation delivered by schemes, which is designed to enable local planning authorities to approve developments where offset credits have been purchased.  

Natural England has stated that they intend to ‘work with and not crowd out’ existing offset providers. It is yet to be seen how this will work but it is understood that Natural England are looking to work with land owners in the affected catchments to establish a scheme.

Opportunities may therefore arise shortly in the affected catchments and Greenslade Taylor Hunt are well placed to advice accordingly. In addition to any scheme to be set up by Natural England, GTH have a wealth of developers who we are already working with in providing some bespoke offsetting solutions. For more information please call GTH on 01823 334466, 01392 908777 or 01460 238383.