Havant farm to be turned into nature reserve in a trailblazing move to reduce pollution and re-start housebuilding

NEARLY £4m is being pumped into a scheme designed to cut nitrogen pollution and allow housebuilding to resume across the Solent.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 11th September 2020, 11:22 am
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP visited Warblington Farm in Havant which is set to become a nature reserve to reduce nitrogen pollution. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-3763)

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is spending £3.9m on setting up an online nitrate credit platform made possible by turning a dairy farm into a nature reserve.

This system will allow developers, who are currently unable to build homes due to nitrate pollution in the Solent, to pay to offset such pollution caused by new homes – paving the way to unlocking housebuilding.

It comes as environment minister Rebecca Pow said the transformation of 60 hectares of farmland into a nature reserve will ‘lead the way’ in out of the problem that has beset developers for years.

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Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP visited Warblington Farm in Havant which is set to become a nature reserve to reduce nitrogen pollution. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-7036)

Havant Borough Council is set to rewild Warblington Farm, on the edge of Emsworth Harbour, over the next few years with hay crops, new hedgerows, wildflowers and habitats for birds.

By changing its use from a dairy farm, it will significantly reduce the amount of nitrates leaking into the sea through fertiliser and cow waste, which ultimately accelerates algae growth that then kills other wildlife.

Such rewilding schemes will then be used to offset the building of new homes.

Environment minister Ms Pow visited the farm to see how the government grant would be spent.

Algae growth in Emsworth Harbour which is made worse by nitrogen pollution created by wastewater from homes and fertiliser from farms. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-7009)

‘Not only will this innovative scheme unlock thousands of much-needed homes for the local area, but it will provide habitat rich areas for wildlife in a true win-win’ she said.

‘Havant is definitely leading the way and we will be watching very closely to see how plans proceed. Nitrate pollution is a problem across the country.

‘We hope we can create a competitive nitrate neutral market where farmers come forward saying you can use my land for this.’

The scheme will act as the pilot for a wider system to be introduced throughout the rest of south Hampshire.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP visited Warblington Farm in Havant which is set to become a nature reserve to reduce nitrogen pollution. Pictured is: (l-r) SJ Hunt, Solent LEP director, Cllr Gary Hughes, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council and cabinet lead for planning, Hayling seafront strategy and commercial services, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England and Anna Parry, partnership manager for Bird Aware Solent. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-3713)

If this pilot proves successful it could be used across the country.

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What is nitrate pollution and why has it stalled housebuilding?

The system will be facilitated by a £225,000 grant from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, and then sustained by developers paying for the nitrate credits to allow them to build homes.

Leader of Havant council, Councillor Michael Wilson, said: ‘Our innovative and original solution not only helps secure the long-term prosperity of our area - it will also create a nature reserve which will be a haven for wildlife and birds.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP visited Warblington Farm in Havant which is set to become a nature reserve to reduce nitrogen pollution. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-3779)

‘We have worked extremely hard to find a way to protect our cherished environment and ensure the vital investment and development the borough needs can take place.'

Housebuilding was postponed in south Hampshire after Natural England ruled wastewater from homes was creating too much nitrogen pollution in the Solent.

But under this scheme the nitrates created by new homes are offset by the repurposing of farmland, which is one of the major causes of nitrogen pollution.

The 60 hectares of Warblington Farm will mitigate for 1,872 kilos of nitrogen.

Each house produces different amounts of nitrogen but a recent 67 house development in the area was calculated to create 59 kilos.

The nitrate trading platform pilot will be rolled out over the next two years.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP visited Warblington Farm in Havant which is set to become a nature reserve to reduce nitrogen pollution. Pictured is: (l-r) Cllr Gary Hughes, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council and cabinet lead for planning, Hayling seafront strategy and commercial services, SJ Hunt, Solent LEP director, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, Anna Parry, partnership manager from Bird Aware Solent and Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England. Picture: Sarah Standing (100920-3720)

As previously reported the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust bought a 100-acre farm in Wootton, Isle of Wight, for re-wilding for the same reason.

The Home Builders Federation has previously criticised the credit scheme and said it was an ‘additional tax’.

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