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Nutrient Neutrality

This page concerns the impact of a letter Natural England sent to a number of councils across the country in March 2022, including King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. It affects the council’s ability to determine planning applications in a small part of west Norfolk in the short term.

Natural England wrote to a number of councils across England in March 2022 about the effect of nutrient pollution on protected watercourses. The letter stipulated that evidence must be provided in planning applications as to what measures will be put in place to mitigate for this or offset it.

It affects most planning applications in a number of areas across the country, including parts of all the districts in Norfolk.

In this county the affected areas are the protected habitats of the River Wensum Special Area of Conservation and the Broads Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar site. This map shows the affected parts of the county.

The Wensum catchment includes parts of the rural north-east of the borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, including the villages of Docking, East Rudham and Great Massingham. This map shows the specific area affected in west Norfolk.

The letter concerned new development within the catchment of these habitats comprising overnight accommodation, which has the potential to cause adverse impacts with regard to pollution of watercourses. Such development includes, but is not limited to:

  • new homes
  • student accommodation
  • care homes
  • tourism attractions
  • tourist accommodation
  • permitted development (which gives rise to new overnight accommodation) under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015
  • any development not involving overnight accommodation, but which may have non-sewerage water quality implications

The letter arises from the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017, which require local planning authorities to ensure that new development does not cause adverse impacts to the integrity of protected habitats (such as the River Wensum or the Broads) prior to granting planning permission.

While the council does already consider the implications of these matters, it cannot lawfully conclude that development within the catchment of the River Wensum or the Broads Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar site will not have an adverse effect. At present there are no identified mitigation solutions available locally to resolve these impacts.

Until this can be resolved the council will not be able to grant planning permission for developments that create any new residential or visitor accommodation within the affected catchment.

The council is working closely with its neighbouring authorities and Natural England to better understand the implications of the letter and identify possible options for mitigation to ensure sustainable development can proceed. At present it is not possible to say how long this may take to resolve but this page will be updated as more information arises.