Portsmouth Tory leader tells city council: Ignore the government housebuilding nitrate rules, risk being sued and have it out in court
A FORMER council leader has slammed an EU ruling on water pollution, saying she would rather risk being sued in court than delay housebuilding in the city.
Portsmouth Conservative boss Councillor Donna Jones described recommendations enforced by Natural England to halt new developments as 'crazy' and urged her peers to proceed with approving planning applications as normal.
It comes after Portsmouth City Council was told last Tuesday (May 14) that all new-builds would have to meet strict regulations on nitrate levels in water due to the adverse effect of nitrogen pollution on protected areas in the Solent.
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As a result planning for new homes will have to be halted until a solution is found, or the council risks being fined by the government.
But Cllr Jones feared for how this would hit the city's economy and residents. 'Housing development has effectively come to a complete standstill in Portsmouth,' she said.
'This is an appalling situation. Thousands of people in Portsmouth work in the building trade. This crazy EU legal case is now directly effecting the livelihoods of hard-working Portsmouth families.
'If I was still leading the council I would not allow this to happen. I would proceed at risk and be prepared to meet the government or its various organisations in court if and when Portsmouth City Council is legally challenged.'
However, the council's deputy leader, Cllr Steve Pitt, was concerned that 'rushing ahead' could have severe implications. He said: 'I share Cllr Jones' concerns, it is an issue of the utmost seriousness and importance.
'But we need to properly think about this before we take any rash action. She may want to rush ahead but this could lead to a whole other issue.'
Cllr Pitt explained that council officers have been tasked with finding a way to prevent nitrate pollution by June 2 - before the next scheduled planning meeting.
'We need to find an environmental solution,' he said.
'I asked officers on Sunday (May 19) to report back within two weeks about what how we address the problem from an environmental perspective. The planning committee only meets once a month so I think we will have a solution before there's a chance to approve any developments anyway.'
Portsmouth Green party co-ordinator Ian McCulloch was keen that the council take on board the recommendations. 'Damage to the environment has to be taken more seriously than it has in the past,' he said.
'The Conservative group happily agreed to declaring a climate emergency recently, but are now insisting that it must be business as usual with the environment taking a back seat. '
High levels of nitrates in water cause oxygen depletion, which is harmful to both humans and biodiversity. Key sources of nitrate pollution are farming (artificial fertilisers and animal waste leaching into water) and domestic and industrial sewage.
Authorities in Fareham, Havant and Gosport have also been hit with the recommendation meaning new developments are suspended until a solution is found.