Council outlines progress being made on Stodmarsh mitigation measuresPosted on 31 March 2023
Ashford Borough Council continues to respond to the various issues that have arisen from the need for new housing and other developments to achieve ‘nutrient neutrality’, due to the deterioration of Stodmarsh Lakes.
Since July 2020, certain planning applications (those providing overnight accommodation, including new housing) located within the Stour catchment and/or which discharge foul water into the catchment, have been put ‘on hold’ until they can achieve nutrient neutrality.
In response to this issue, the council has been working on a way to deliver long term nutrient mitigation, by identifying suitable land in the borough for strategic wetlands, which can generate off-site nutrient mitigation that can then be secured by developments, allowing them to be granted planning permission.
Last night Cabinet members agreed to support the continuation of this work on acquisition of potential sites for this purpose. They also agreed the proposed contents and broad scope of a future Nutrient Neutrality Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), and for this to be subject to public consultation in due course.
Many housing applications in the Stour catchment have been unable to be determined. This ‘hold’ on granting permissions on affected sites will continue until a solution is found.
Cost neutral solution
It is expected that the cost of providing a wetland to allow residential planning permissions to be granted will be recovered from the developers affected, through the making of the necessary and proportionate payments for their developments’ nutrient mitigation.
The council have been clear from the outset that the strategic nutrient mitigation solutions generated will be delivered on a cost recovery basis so that the council, as ‘forward funder’, is paid back over time by the developments that need and utilise the mitigation whilst not seeking to undermine the viability of schemes and their need to contribute to other areas such as new schools or play facilities.
“The council has made significant progress on nutrient neutrality, including working towards delivering strategic wetlands and the preparation towards a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the matter. We are also committed in working with the various agencies/partners to bring forward the two sites under consideration.”Simon Cole, Assistant Director Planning & Development
A core component of the council’s strategy is the creation of strategic wetlands within the borough as a means of providing off-site nutrient mitigation. There are two projects currently ongoing.
Pre-application discussions are being held on one site, and commercial arrangements are being finalised. A planning application is expected to be submitted in the summer of 2023.
The council are also actively engaged with the landowner to secure a commercial agreement on land that is the subject of an active planning application for a wetland (reference PA/2023/0393).
Discussions are ongoing, yet both parties have agreed an approach and in principle, the financial sum that would be involved in acquiring the wetland.
It is also agreed that the wetland can only be considered acceptable, in principle, if it formally forms part of the overall mitigation strategy, and this will be reflected in the application prior to its determination.
Significant nutrient mitigation
Whilst details of both projects are commercially sensitive (and subject to commercial agreements and gaining the relevant permissions and permits), it should be noted that they would yield significant levels of nutrient mitigation.
A precise figure cannot be given at present, but these solutions will mean that the nutrient neutrality impediment has the ability to be removed for all those housing sites allocated in the Local Plan 2030.
Simon Cole, Assistant Director Planning & Development noted in his Cabinet report that: “The council are committed to continue taking a proactive and innovative approach to deal with the impediment to housing delivery from nutrient neutrality requirements.
“The council has made significant progress on nutrient neutrality, including working towards delivering strategic wetlands and the preparation towards a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on the matter. We are also committed in working with the various agencies/partners to bring forward the two sites under consideration.
“The SPD, once drafted, will provide applicants with useful advice about how to achieve nutrient neutrality, what information to submit with a planning application and the process to apply for strategic nutrient mitigation.”