Council borrows £ 2million to tackle phosphate pollution housing crisis

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Advisors hope Somerset West and Taunton’s plan will build between 700 and 1,350 homes in the Tone River watershed, but warn that a long-term solution will require “screwing up the water companies” .

In August 2020, the District Councils of South Somerset, Sedgemoor and Mendip, as well as the Councils of Somerset West and Taunton, received legal advice from Natural England urging all relevant planning authorities to take a nutrient neutral approach. for development, because of the high levels of phosphate already prejudicial to international protection. habitat.

READ MORE: Nutrient Crisis – New Builds Shut Down Due To Phosphates Directive

Mike Rigby, portfolio manager of the council for planning and transport policy, said the nutrition neutrality crisis “has had a major impact on our ability to provide housing in the neighborhood, including affordable housing.”

The borrowed money “will help determine some of the planning requests outstanding at the moment,” he said.

According to the BBC’s local democracy reporting service, plans for the money will include acquiring land in the watershed and reallocating it into wetlands. This would allow the phosphates to be naturally absorbed.

However, at a board meeting on Tuesday, Councilor Gwilym Wren described the plans as amounting to “a patch”.

“What we need to do is put pressure on the government very, very hard to get the water companies to do what they should do,” she said, “which is to extract the phosphates from water and get rid of it “.

“The long term solution depends very heavily on putting the screws on the water companies – and there is no evidence that they are ready to do so.”

The council also plans to create a phosphate planning sub-committee to oversee the implementation of the measures, and all new residential developments will need to include water efficiency measures to mitigate phosphates entering rivers. and existing streams. The council’s housing stock, which has more than 5,000 units, will also be modernized to reduce the amount of water used.

These are not the first steps Somerset councils have taken to try to break the housing deadlock. Earlier this year, the region’s four district councils and the region’s county council released a phosphate calculator in an attempt to “minimize delays and uncertainty around planning requests” caused by the county councils. Natural England.

It is not just a problem affecting Somerset. The councils of Herefordshire, Kent and Cornwall have also been advised by Natural England to cease granting authorizations for programs unless they can demonstrate nutritional neutrality.

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