On 20 July the Environment Secretary announced proposed government action to address nutrient pollution, this includes the enforced upgrading of wastewater treatment and a mitigation scheme.

In an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, currently in the House of Commons, the government is intending to make water and sewerage companies in Nutrient Neutrality Zones upgrade wastewater treatment to “the highest technically achievable limits” by 2030. The Bill, which includes measures on many issues, from local democracy to vagrancy, may not become law for some time. The upgrading of wastewater treatment is of particular relevance to the River Lambourn, as the nutrient of concern is phosphorus, the main source of which is sewage outfalls.

Mitigation, in planning terms, means actions taken to offset the harm done by a development. In a Nutrient Neutrality Zone, applicants for planning permission must show their development is “nutrient neutral”. In other words, the nutrients (phosphorus in our case) from all surface water runoff and wastewater from the proposed development must be less than, or equal to, the nutrients produced by the existing land use. If applicants cannot show this, then planning permission will not be granted. 

Natural England is to set up a Nutrient Mitigation Scheme. Developers will not be required to use the scheme (there are already various private companies which are devising ways to mitigate phosphorus pollution) but it will have the support of DEFRA, Homes England and the Environment Agency. Details will be available “in the autumn when the scheme launches”. 

Lambourn Parish Council will publish further updates as soon as we have them.

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