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