Norfolk brings in consultants over nutrient neutrality
3:57 PM May 20, 2022
Expert consultants are to be paid £75,000 to find a solution to the issue which has brought granting of planning permission for homes in much of Norfolk to a standstill.
And the first meetings with them to forge a strategy which would enable new housing to be given the go-ahead are imminent.
Councils have turned to experts in order to satisfy ‘nutrient neutrality’ requirements introduced upon the instruction of government advisor Natural England.
Those measures are designed to ensure the River Wensum and the Broads are not affected by wastewater pollution from new developments.
Excessive nutrients can cause algal blooms, which can threaten aquatic species.
And, until a strategy is drawn up for how to mitigate the impact of wastewater from new homebuilding in the catchment areas of the Wensum and the Broads, councils are unable to grant permission for new ‘overnight accommodation’.
Norfolk’s seven district, borough and city councils tendered for a “suitably qualified consultant team” to prepare a Nitrate and Phosphate Mitigation Strategy across the catchment areas of the Wensum and Broads.
And Peterborough-based Royal HaskoningDHV has been awarded that contract.
A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council, which tendered for the contract on behalf of all the councils affected, said: “Norfolk councils have been working collectively with Natural England, the Environment Agency, Anglian Water and other agencies to find a solution to this issue as quickly as possible.
“A specialist consultant has now been appointed, following a tendering process, to help prepare a strategy to achieve nutrient neutrality objectives.
“An initial concept meeting will take place shortly to scope out next steps.”
The contract has an “end date” of May 17, 2023. But an “extension clause date” of May 17, 2024 means the councils are allowing for the possibility of the work taking up to two years.
Councils are under pressure to find a solution, with an estimated 10,490 homes currently on hold in the area affected across Norfolk.
The issue also has potential repercussions on the approval of the Greater Norwich Local Plan – a blueprint for where thousands of homes could be built.
Council leaders recently wrote to cabinet ministers Michael Gove and George Eustice urging them to intervene.