Portsmouth council look to introduce nitrate credit system to allow house building to resume

PORTSMOUTH City Council has agreed on a strategy which it hopes will allow it to continue its house building programme.

By Neil Fatkin
Saturday, 24th August 2019, 4:01 pm
Updated Monday, 26th August 2019, 11:20 am
Portsmouth City Council hopes its new nitrate credit plan will allow it to recommence building new houses. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

House building across Hampshire was halted in May under the directive of Natural England due to the level of nitrates in the Solent area.

However, despite the recommendation from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the council still faces meeting government housing targets. The situation has been clouded with another DEFRA department, the Environment Agency, giving conflicting advice on the issue.

The council’s deputy leader, Steve Pitt, said: ‘We’re getting two different messages from the same government department. Our view is that the government needs to resolve this situation in order for us to carry on with our building strategy. We still have to meet our annual target of 800 homes – if we don’t, the government can remove the council’s authority to grant planning permission.’

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Any further developments need to be nitrate neutral – adding no further pollutants to the land. Developers say being ‘nitrate-neutral’ is impossible to meet as nitrates are in drinking and waste water.

As a short-term strategy, the council has proposed a nitrate credit system in which vacant properties, which are no longer in use and adding potential nitrates, can offset nitrate levels and provide scope for new properties to be constructed.

Cllr Pitt said: ‘Leamington House and Horatia House had structural issues and are currently empty. Under the shared credit system these empty 272 properties provide credit in the bank and the potential flexibility to build new houses.’

During this period, the council will also look to improve the water efficiency of its current properties and reduce the long-term nitrate balance.

‘Our older properties have showers rather than baths and less efficient toilets. Changing these appliances will allow us to reduce the average water consumption from 145 litres per household to 110,’ said Cllr Pitt.

Whilst this strategy has been agreed in principle to enable house building to recommence, Cllr Pitt was keen to stress that all planning applications will still have to undergo ‘appropriate assessment for each individual case’.

Steve added: ‘We want to continue to provide affordable housing for people along with the jobs which go with it.’