A BAN on building new homes brought in over pollution fears could be temporarily lifted if water waste in existing homes is reduced.
As part of plans to solve potentially 'dangerous' levels of nitrates caused by housebuilding in south Hampshire, Portsmouth City Council officers revealed introducing 'water efficiencies' in homes could mitigate the problem.
Ways to improve water efficiency include fixing leaking taps and retrofitting toilets with devices to reduce the amount of water used for each flush.
Speaking to Portsmouth's planning committee yesterday the council's development manager, Sim Manley, said: 'For each five homes where water efficiency is improved, we can grant planning permission for one new home.
'If we were able to create water efficiency across the whole city we would be looking at 2,400 additional homes that could be built.'
Tory councillor Luke Stubbs raised concerns about how much this would cost the council.
Mr Manley confirmed housing developers would foot the bill. 'Any costs afforded would be picked up by the developer,' he said.
'If it was a council development we would pay.'
Housebuilding was postponed in Portsmouth and other areas of south Hampshire in May this year after Natural England ruled that nitrogen pollution was having an adverse affect on protected areas in the Solent.
Adding extra bedrooms to homes was also banned for the same reason.
The council's deputy leader, Cllr Steve Pitt, said: 'We need to be clear this isn't a political decision. We have legal advice and we need to follow that advice until we receive further advice.'
Water efficiency would only be a temporary solution and a full strategy from the Partnership for South Hampshire (Push) to tackle the issue is due to be put in place by October 15 this year.
Mr Manley said: 'Hopefully by then we will be able to start making decisions.
'There's a huge amount of effort being put in to come to a solution for this.'
Already an appeal for one application, to turn a home in Norman Road in Southsea into a house in multiple occupancy, has been rejected by the government's planning inspector due to fears it would 'harmfully affect the integrity of the special protected areas.'