HOUSEBUILDERS in Portsmouth have vowed to challenge water pollution rules that have halted planning approval in the city, after councillors agreed to stall applications.
Under an EU court ruling Natural England has advised all local authorities in the Solent to stop building new homes due to increased levels of nitrogen pollution in the water.
At a cabinet meeting yesterday (June 11) councillors agreed to heed the advice from Natural England until a solution is found.
But housebuilders are concerned about the impact on their businesses. Kieran Walker, from the Home Building Federation, said: 'This issue has been brought to us by a number of members in the south coast area.
'I know of five PLC house builders in Portsmouth who are hugely concerned. I was speaking to one firm this morning that has six planning applications ready to go but are being held up while this is being deliberated. There's nothing they can do at the moment but wait.
'They are currently seeking legal advice on how to challenge this. There is no justifiable cause as far as they can see. They are gearing up to challenge this.'
A report found that nitrogen in the water is accelerating green algae growth in protected areas of the Solent, putting the local ecosystem at risk. Nitrogen levels are increased in areas with houses as well as agricultural land.
Mr Walker added: 'Agriculture causes more nitrates in the water than houses do because crops will be sprayed with fertiliser. Also by building homes you're preventing the land from being used for agriculture.
'Water going in and out of houses goes through a nine-point filtering system already to meet standards.'
The guidance from Natural England is to stop any developments on new buildings that 'generate an overnight stay', which includes new homes, hotels and extending houses to add more bedrooms.
During the cabinet meeting members were happy to stick to the advice given.
Deputy leader of the council, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: 'We have a responsibility to the environment and future generations to make sure we don't do permanent damage. We have to make sure we develop a strategy to get development moving again.'
Ian McCulloch, chairman of the Portsmouth Green Party, was buoyed by the council's stance. 'The EU habitats directive that is also part of UK legislation covers this issue,' he said.
'I am very glad to see a temporary suspension on building while we are looking at ways to solve this. I am sure there are ways to be found - I don't want to see housebuilding stopped for a long time because ultimately we are in need of houses.'
An update is expected on June 20.