Pine trees overhanging the shore of a lake with fells on the far shore

Nutrient neutrality

Natural England, the organisation tasked with protecting biodiversity and ecosytems in England, is trying to protect freshwater rivers and lakes that are currently in good condition with low levels of nutrients. Regulations protect four water catchments in the Lake District, which means that new developments must not add any extra nutrients, in particular phosphates, to these catchments. If a development will increase nutrient levels, for example by adding new houses to the area, it must have a way of removing the same amount of nutrients from somewhere else in that catchment. This is called nutrient neutrality.

The catchment areas that now need nutrient neutrality information to be included with planning applications are;

  • River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake Special Area of Conservation
  • River Eden Special Area of Conservation
  • River Kent Special Area of Conservation
  • Esthwaite Water RAMSAR

Maps showing the four catchment areas where nutrient neutrality applies:

  • Map showing the Derwent catchment area

    River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake catchment

  • Eden catchment map

    River Eden catchment

  • Kent catchment map

    River Kent catchment

  • Map showing Esthwaite Water Ramsar

    Esthwaite Water Ramsar

Nutrient neutrality will affect planning applications in these areas

Nutrient neutrality information is required before a planning application is validated where the proposed development is within one of the catchment areas above and the scheme is for:

  • Agricultural development which will result in an increase in stock numbers; or
  • New overnight accommodation (including new dwellings, new camping, glamping or caravan pitches served by on-site toilet or washing facilities, or new hotel bedroom accommodation); or
  • New tourism development which is likely to increase the number of day visitors to a premises;

Where such developments would be served by mains, package treatment plant, septic tank or cess pool sewerage.

Nutrient neutrality information must be provided with these applications

Nutrient neutrality information must include:

Option 1

Option 2

  • Evidence that all thresholds for small discharges to ground as set out on page 21 of the Natural England Nutrient Neutrality Advice letters (see links below) are met.

Exceptions to nutrient neutrality validation requirement

This validation requirement does not apply to:

  1. Development falling within Use Class B2 or B8 (general industrial or uses)
  2. Development falling within Use Class E (Commercial, Business and Service)
  3. Development falling within Use Class F1(a), (d), (e), or (f)
  4. Development falling within Use Class F2(a), (b) or (c)
  5. Development changing between from one type of tourism accommodation to another without increasing occupancy (e.g. guesthouse to holiday let)
  6. Householder development (including ancillary accommodation such as annexes or incidental accommodation such as garden buildings)

Nutrient neutrality information may be needed in some other cases

For some applications nutrient neutrality information is not required as part of a valid application, we may still require nutrient neutrality information during the application process, or refuse planning permission in the absence of nutrient neutrality information for developments of the types listed above following case by case assessment.

Full advice from Natural England

Letter from the Chief Planner from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to all planning authorities affected on 16 March 2022.

River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake Special Area of Conservation

River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake -

River Eden Special Area of Conservation

River Kent Special Area of Conservation

River Kent

Esthwaite Water RAMSAR

Esthwaite Water

Cumbria Catchments Strategic Mitigation Solutions Project

Supported by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Lake District National Park Authority and Carlisle City Council are working with Natural England, the Environment Agency, Cumbria County Council and other partners and local planning authorities to identify and promote strategic mitigation options and solutions across affected Cumbrian catchments. This will support the delivery of Cumbrian Authorities’ spatial strategies, and enable the unlocking of existing planning applications and future proposals (particularly in respect of housing and tourism provision) without unacceptable impact upon nature conservation interests.

This work will:

  • Identify and promote delivery of practical mitigation options for each catchment (including a pipeline of offsetting sites) to enable the local planning authorities to achieve Nutrient Neutrality with new developments, including working with Natural England on their strategic mitigation scheme.
  • Establish a process to offer applicants mitigation options and possibilities through credit trading.
  • Identify and deliver opportunities for training of Development Management services to ensure they have the skills needed to assess and determine planning casework in accordance with the Habitat Regulations in the long term.

The project will run alongside Natural England's strategic mitigation project over a two year period.

Catchment Nutrients Officer jobs

To support the delivery of the required work we are looking for Catchment Nutrients Officers to work on the project until December 2024. Tasks will include:

  • Project managing the project
  • Establishing a small delivery team responsible for establishing the processes and systems necessary to support, over the long term, the planning authorities across the four affected catchments.
  • Working with partner organisations, including Natural England, to develop mitigation strategies and requisite mitigation schemes
  • Overseeing consultants preparing a Nutrient Mitigation Solutions Report
  • Working with landowners to identify and deliver suitable mitigation sites and solutions across affected catchments
  • Developing and delivering a communications and engagement plan, ensuring appropriate updates and messaging as programme progresses
  • Consider how refinements to the Nutrient Neutrality Credit Scheme could encompass other environmental mitigation requirements such as Biodiversity Net Gain and Nature Recovery Strategies and complement other Natural Environment Investment opportunities

You can find out more about currently available posts and apply on our jobs page.

Invitation to tender

We are seeking to appoint a consultant to prepare one Nutrient Mitigation Solutions Report covering the affected parts of four Cumbrian catchments – the River Eden SAC, River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake SAC, River Kent SAC and Esthwaite Water RAMSAR.  The invitation to tender is now open.

  • The Mitigation Solutions Report will:
    identify the development aspirations of local authorities within the affected catchments, including allocated and windfall developments, based on information including local plan targets and policies, as well as evidence of previous development delivery and current trajectory
    establish a robust understanding of phosphates in the affected catchments.
    identify and analyse existing nutrient processes, including phosphate sources, amounts, locations and movements, and their effect on habitats site condition
    use the baseline understanding of the existing and, as the case may be future, nutrient position in the catchments to inform and guide solutions options and meet the information quality standards expected by Habitats Regulations Assessment
    identify solutions which can deliver nutrient neutrality to meet identified development aspirations, including the type, amount and location of solutions that can achieve this objective, and indicative costs for different solution types and any associated credits
    identify solutions which are sufficient not just to deliver nutrient neutrality, but also which are sufficient to restore the habitats sites to favourable condition allowing nutrient neutrality requirements to be dispensed with, including the type, amount and location of solutions that can achieve this objective, and indicative costs for different solution types and any associated credits

You can read more details about the work in the tender brief. Tender bids should be submitted via The Chest procurement portal before 0900 on Monday 7 November 2022.