Eutrophication might not have been a word that planners came across too often before November 2018, but many now know if they didn’t before then that it is the process by which nutrient-laden water encourages algae growth to the extent that it starves water and sediments of oxygen, forms a barrier to birds feeding, smothers seagrass beds and saltmarshes.
Until November 2018 it was largely the case that an Appropriate Assessment undertaken to accompany development proposals affecting nutrient-sensitive Special Protection Areas (SPAs) would conclude that any impacts could be mitigated against. That month, however, the European Court of Justice ruled in two joined cases relating to the EU Habitats Directive, which together are know as the ‘Dutch case’. Depending on your point of view, this judgement either significantly raised the assessment bar or provided welcome clarification on how the Directive should have been being interpreted anyway. Either way, subsequent advice from Natural England, at first in relation to the Solent SPA, recommended that LPAs in and around sensitive areas should withhold planning permission unless negative impacts of development can be ruled out completely.
Eighteen months later the ramifications of the requirement for nitrogen and phosphorous neutrality are still being felt. What has the impact of this issue been? How far away is a satisfactory resolution in those parts of the country that have been affected? And, with change afoot for both the post-Brexit environmental assessment regime and the planning system more broadly, what lessons can be drawn for planning at the scale of a river catchment?
Sam Stafford puts these questions to:
- James Cording, Turley
- Max Tant, Kent County Council
- Graham Horton, Natural England
- Marian Cameron, Marian Cameron Consultants Ltd
BECG proudly supports the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast from Samuel Stafford, Regional Strategic Land Director at Barratt Developments.