House Construction

18 March 2022

Nutrient budget calculators to benefit housing developers

Housing developers facing nutrient pollution obstacles will be helped by Natural England’s release of more than 25 nutrient budget calculators.
Global environment consulting company, Ricardo, has created these calculators for Natural England, the government's adviser for the natural environment, to allow developers to quantify the nutrient loading that new residential development will add to a site. This will ascertain the amount of mitigation required to prove nutrient neutrality.
Following the 2018 ‘Dutch Case’, which set higher standards for developers to help protect the environment, and advice from Natural England to local planning authorities, the issue of nutrient neutrality has brought house building to a standstill in some areas.
This was initially for seven regions of England, including The Solent; the River Camel in Cornwall; the River Lugg in Herefordshire; Stodmarsh in Kent; the River Avon in Hampshire; the Somerset Levels and Moors; and Poole Harbour. This month, nutrient neutrality advice was issued to planning authorities in a further 20 affected areas making the release of the calculators especially timely.
Gabriel Connor-Streich, a Principal Consultant with Ricardo, said: “The first step for home builders struggling to get approval for their developments is to calculate the amount of nutrients they may need to offset in order to achieve nutrient neutrality. The calculators are a great tool in this respect as they help to simplify that assessment process, quickly identifying the level of nutrient mitigation needed to ensure residential development doesn’t impact valuable protected ecosystems.”
The development of these calculators, designed to be intuitive and user friendly while incorporating complex calculations based on rigorous scientific principles, follows previous Ricardo work completed on nutrient neutrality for Natural England.
On what more can be done to support industry along the journey to nutrient neutral development, Dr Connor-Streich said: “The next step is to help support developers expand their understanding of how different mitigation solutions can best provide beneficial impacts on protected habitats. This is the aim of Ricardo’s follow-up work for Natural England”.
A spokesman for Natural England said: “We recognise the hard work put in to developing the calculators, and believe that it has resulted in a very user-friendly product which will provide a valuable input into providing solutions for nutrient migration.”