In August 2020 this Council, along with the other Somerset Council’s as well as Dorset Council received a letter from Natural England concerning high levels of phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors and stressing the need to protect them from further phosphate pollution.
Parts of the district fall within the Somerset Levels and Moors which are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Habitat Regulations 2017 and listed as a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention.
In light of a court Judgement (known as Dutch N), Natural England have advised SSDC that, in light of the unfavourable condition of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar Site, before determining a planning application/submission that may give rise to additional phosphates within the catchment, competent authorities should undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
SSDC is taking measures to protect the Somerset Levels and Moors when determining planning submissions following advice from Natural England.
The types of development include:
- New residential units – including tourist accommodation, gypsy sites /pitches
- Agricultural Development – additional barns, slurry stores etc. where it is likely to lead to an increase in herd size
- Prior Notifications of agricultural development where, as a result of the development, the herd size may increase. Also, prior notifications for change of use of office to dwellings and agricultural buildings to dwellings
- Anaerobic Digesters
- Tourism attractions with over-night accommodation
This means the Council is currently unable to determine some applications until the impact the development would have on phosphate levels has been addressed.
Along with the four District Councils, Somerset County Council and Natural England we have been working to find a solution to the phosphate issues as quickly as possible.
The first step in this process is the publication of a Phosphate Calculator. Read the Council’s press release.
The phosphate calculator can be accessed by following this link:
Following the publication of this calculator, some applicants for development will be able to clarify whether they have the capacity to deliver on site mitigation and therefore be able to present suitable land management proposals to allow their proposals to make progress.
For small scale schemes that can use Septic Tanks or Package Treatment Plants Somerset Ecology Services together with Natural England have prepared Interim Guidelines about the scope to achieve drainage solutions that do not trigger the significant effect test. View the Guidelines here.
For those applications where applicant’s do not have the capacity to provide an on-site solution the next step for the Somerset Council’s to develop an off-site mitigation strategy to include costed projects that can deliver the necessary mitigation and to apply a cost per dwelling (or alternative, impacted development type) that can allow new development to progress without resulting in a significant impact upon the protected site.
We will update our website when the position changes and more information can be made available.