Nutrient Neutrality in Norfolk - a CLA update

A blog from CLA East Rural Adviser Andrew Marriott

The CLA recently met with the planning team at North Norfolk District Council to discuss the ongoing issue of nutrient neutrality, which continues to impact planning applications in the county.

As things stand, there are over 100 planning applications currently held in limbo in the River Wensum and Norfolk Broads catchments, as developers and planners alike struggle to find a way forward.

In September it appeared there may be a light at the end of the tunnel when the government announced plans to do away with nutrient neutrality through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), an attempt that was ultimately beaten in the House of Lords, meaning that for now, nutrient neutrality remains a live and complex issue for developers to navigate.

In Norfolk, the district council suggested the government’s efforts to row back on nutrient neutrality may have been a misstep that could ultimately undermine the newly launched Norfolk Environmental Credits venture. This venture is a partnership between Norfolk’s Councils that invests in local schemes, such as wetland creation, that mitigate nutrient loads entering the water environment, with resulting nutrient neutrality credits sold to developers.

This is currently one of the few strategies available to tackle the issue, so it is concerning, but entirely understandable, that many landowners are seemingly less inclined to put land forward for mitigation as a result of the stance taken by Westminster in September.

It remains to be seen if the prime minister will attempt to introduce new legislation to scrap nutrient neutrality altogether. Doing so would put him in direct conflict with the 90 Labour peers who thwarted his earlier efforts, and there is clearly much support for this level of environmental protection amongst the rest of the Labour Party.

The CLA will continue engaging with local planning authorities in the affected catchments and will maintain dialogue with Natural England to ensure members are kept informed of any developments with nutrient neutrality as they arise.

For members in Norfolk who are within the affected catchments and have live planning applications in process, expect to receive further communication from the local planning authority to discuss a potential timeline for determining those applications.