Councils join to find solution to housebuilding ban

Housebuilding has been stalled across the Solent
Housebuilding has been stalled across the Solent
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WATER efficient taps, re-purposed farmland and new wetland environments are just a few ideas planners say could solve pollution issues in the Solent and see building work resumed.

New developments in South Hampshire came to a halt last month after Natural England ruled the nitrogen levels in water were having an adverse impact on protected areas of the coast.

Now local authorities - including Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant - have grouped together as part of the Partnership for South Hampshire (Push) to find a solution, in the hope of proceeding with building work.

Deputy leader for Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: 'At the moment we need to know if there are some short-term fixes we can apply to get building started again while still looking at long-term solution.

'This affects a large group of councils so it's really important that we all come together to work on this. But some of us are impacted differently. For example, one of the main causes of nitrates in water is fertilisers used on farms but we don't have any farmland in Portsmouth.'

This week Havant Borough Council became the first local authority from Push to publish options that were under consideration.

These included installing more water efficient taps in new homes and developing agricultural land to eradicate the need for harmful fertilisers. 

Adding plantlife to rivers that will absorb nitrates was also suggested.

Cllr Tim Pike, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council, was concerned about the impact of the ban on builders.

'It's clearly important we continue because we have a need for housing, particularly affordable housing, and that's currently being stopped,' he said.

'But although larger developers should be able to cope with this issue, it could have an effect on small builders if work is suddenly drying up.'

The councils are also working with Southern Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Interim growth planning manager at Southern Water, Philip James, said: 'The key, we believe, is to try to mitigate and reduce the artificial nitrates entering the natural water system from agricultural practices.'

Plans will be presented to the Push joint committee on July 31.