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Phosphates and Nutrient Neutrality

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Government confirms nutrient neutrality is still required

The Government has confirmed that for the foreseeable future, it is important that planning decision-making continues to consider the need for nutrient neutrality in all nutrient- affected catchments, including the River Lambourn catchment in West Berkshire (Nutrient neutrality: update - GOV.UK ( The Government proposals to amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) to remove the requirement for nutrient neutrality under the Habitats Regulations was defeated in a vote in the House of Lords on 13 September 2023. Nutrient pollution of England's rivers, the delays it is causing to housing delivery, and the wider need to restore our waterways remains a Government priority, and it will make further announcements about next steps in due course.

Locally, West Berkshire Council is continuing to work with its partners in neighbouring local authorities and specialist consultants Royal Haskoning in consultation with Natural England to produce a refined nutrient budget calculator for applicants and to produce a strategy for mitigating the additional phosphorous generated by new residential development in the Lambourn catchment.

Nutrient pollution is a major environmental issue for many of England's most important places for nature

In rivers and estuaries, increased levels of nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus) can harm wildlife. These nutrients are affecting the condition of internationally-protected rivers - such as the River Lambourn.

Natural England and the Government have provided advice and support to help local planners and developers tackle two challenges that can sometimes be seen as in competition: building the homes the country needs while also protecting and restoring nature.

Under the guidance provided by Natural England, local planning authorities and developers are advised on how planning proposals can stop the expected increase in nitrogen and phosphorus from a new development so that they can become nutrient neutral.

It will be important that there are no bad effects in order to meet the requirements of the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017 (as amended).

This means that, for planning applications in the River Lambourn catchment area and the River Test catchment area (see images below), the Council needs to consider the possibility of adverse effects, as a result of additional nutrient loads (including from residential developments), as part of a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA).

See the images below to see the River Lambourn and River Test catchment areas on a map:

River Lambourn SAC Catchment Area: 

A map with the River Lambourn SAC marked in yellow.
(view a larger PDF version)

River Test Catchment Area:
A map with the River Test highlighted in blue.

New development proposals within, and next to, the designated area will require statements on how drainage and surface water runoff will be treated at the time of submission. Failure to provide this information may lead to an automatic refusal.

When submitting the Nutrient calculator you will also need to provide evidence that you have received permission for connection or have applied for connection to Thames Water systems and which precise WwTW you have applied to connect to.

You can read more about Nutrient Neutrality (NN) and the planning system on the Local Government Association website.

You can find further information relating to the River Lambourn Special Area of Conservation and the River Test, which are both in in unfavourable condition as a result of excess phosphates, below:

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