Urban runoff and sewage from new housing development contributes to the leaking of nitrates and phosphorus into rivers, lakes, streams and seas. An excess of these nutrients causes “eutrophication”—algal blooms which starve a river of light and oxygen, killing wildlife.
Under current legislation, planning authorities have been required to closely consider the potential impacts of development on nutrient pollution levels in sensitive freshwater habitats but Government has tabled an amendment to the Habitats Regulations to remove this requirement. The new section
- instructs planning authorities to assume no increase in pollution
- prevents planning authorities from requesting an assessment to investigate pollution impacts further or concluding potential impacts will be adverse
- instructs authorities to ignore any evidence of potential adverse impacts.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), has been very clear as to the impact these changes will have upon environmental protection. The amendment would: ‘‘Permit certain environmentally damaging activity to proceed without ‘appropriate assessment’ of certain nutrient impacts, thus risking substantial harm to protected wildlife sites. Planning authorities would also be required to disregard negative findings concerning such nutrient pollution in any appropriate assessments, and disregard representations from Natural England or others. The proposed amendments would therefore remove legal controls on the addition of nutrient loads to sites that already suffer from these impacts. ….’’
Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), a collaborative network of conservation organisations, including Froglife, argues strongly that nutrient neutrality should be maintained and is calling for peers to reject the Government’s damaging proposals.