Why shellfish could allow housebuilding to resume in Portsmouth

Oysters are known to 'absorb' nitrogen as well as feed on harmful algae
Oysters are known to 'absorb' nitrogen as well as feed on harmful algae
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OYSTER beds could be introduced around the city's coastline in a bid to solve pollution issues that have halted housebuilding across the Solent.

After Natural England ruled that the level of nitrogen in water being released into the sea was having an 'adverse affect' on natural habitats by accelerating algae growth, Portsmouth City Council - and other Hampshire authorities - postponed building.

Now, shellfish are just one of several ideas being considered by Portsmouth City Council to combat this, as they feed on 'harmful' algae and store nitrogen in their shells and tissue.

A report, to be heard at a council cabinet next week, said: 'Consequently encouraging oyster farming in our harbours could therefore mean that excesses in nitrogen from waste water treatment plants, farm fertilizers and other human sources can be decreased.'

However, a more immediate plan known as a 'nitrate credit system' is also being put forward as a temporary solution. The scheme would allow for new homes to be built if enough 'credits' can be stored by making other existing homes more water efficient.

It is thought efficiencies, such as installing low-flush toilets, made to city council homes alone would allow for more than 500 homes per year. 

Portsmouth council's deputy leader, Councillor Steve Pitt, said: 'It is great news that we have been able to find a way to offset nitrates produced by future developments.

'By making environmentally friendly changes to buildings we own we can make sure there are no barriers to Portsmouth getting the new homes it needs. This is a big win for the local environment and local residents.

'This isn't the end of the issue, we will continue to work with our neighbours to lobby government and find a long-term solution, but in the meantime the credit system ensures we can grant planning applications while that happens.'

The ban was focused on work that would create more 'overnight stays' - meaning new homes or additional bedrooms.

So far five planning applications in Portsmouth have been dismissed due to nitrate concerns including the extension of a house in multiple occupancy in Margate Road.

Work with neighbouring areas will still be conducted through the Partnership for South Hampshire (Push).