Planning & Nitrate Neutrality

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TVBC & Nitrate Neutrality

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Author: Julian Blackmore
Date: 09-Aug-2019
Updated: 01-Feb-2022
Keywords: TVBC, Test Valley, Nitrogen, Nitrate, Planning, Nutrient

"The Planning System Is In Crisis"

Planning permission grinds to a stand still at Test Valley ! For architects, developers, builders and plot owners, the planning system has always been somewhat of a frustratingly inconsistent and bureaucratic process of delays and amendments. Then, just when you have engineered around dealing with it, along comes the "Nutrient Neutrality" planning condition.

What is the problem

On June 24th 2019, Test Valley Borough Council applied a planning condition to all applications requiring any additional dwelling to be nitrogen / nutrient neutral. The problem is that there are little or no solutions to achieve this meaning that applications will be denied.

Why did this happen

Ultimately this came from a court ruling in the EU (CJEU) against the Netherlands which has to be adopted into UK law (unless Brexit occurs). Increased levels of nitrogen in the water is causing issues with the habitat of wading birds. Most of this nitrogen comes from farming and some from housing development. As such, this then became a recommendation of Natural England to councils in the Solent area to impose a planning condition stating that new dwellings are to be nutrient neutral.

Who does it affect

Any council who controls an area where water eventually ends up in the Solent Estuary and has, or is about to adopt the policy. I believe Havant was first.

What planning applications does it affect

Every application for an additional habitable dwelling. At the moment applications made with prior approval such as Class Q and permitted developments such as extensions are exempt. Replacements dwellings on a one for one basis are also being exempted by TVBC at the time of writing.

Is there a solution

At the moment every plot will need to be reviewed on an individual basis so please book a free consultation here. There are no devices that can be just be fitted that can achieve waste water neutrality but there are some methods and offsets depending on the exact plot.

What is the future

We have personally consulted with TVBC, our specialist architect and we have sought clarity directly from cabinet ministers (a written report to follow). The long term solution is likely to be some kind of contribution but at this moment TVBC, Southern Water and Natural England are still in talks.

Further information

Please contact Julian Blackmore for more information and see updates below.

Supplemental Documents



After exhaustive research into solutions and viable offsets, including land suitability, excess nitrogen levels over NE’s figures and everything from marshes to tanks; in sight there are now three potential allowance schemes.


Another year lost forever and it would appear that a solution has been agreed in principle with TVBC and approximate rates for credits, but we are told that no land allocation has been made within the borough and the I.O.W offset may not suffice. We have not confirmed this as yet.

In February 2021 The High Court gave leave for a legal challenge in the matter of R (Save Warsash and the Western Wards) v Fareham Borough Council (CO/3397/2020).
This case is due to be heard in May along with R (Brook Avenue Residents Against Development) v Fareham Borough Council (CO/4168/2020) and is expected to last three days or so. This case could make the issue swing either way because the argument is about whether Fareham Council's approach to mitigation is valid / robust.


The High Court ruled in favour of the Fareham Council and decided that their approach to nitrate mitigation was "impeccable". This will hopefully mean a nitrate credits system will become availabe very soon.


Planning consents have started flowing again, but often with a Grampian condition. Offset credits appear to have been available from Roke Manor Farm, Romsey; subject to conditions. As yet, we are still not aware of a house that has actually been built.....

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