Campaigners call for action to help limit nitrates in Chichester Harbour

The land around Chichester Harbour has been designated a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone
The land around Chichester Harbour has been designated a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone

Campaigners have quizzed Chichester District Council on housebuilding following action taken by neighbouring councils in Hampshire over nitrate pollution.

Natural England is concerned about the effects of sewage from new developments on protected areas and a number of local authorities in Hampshire have suspended issuing planning permissions for new homes, based on the government adviser’s recommendation that all new-build homes should meet strict environmental rules over nitrate levels.

Andrew Kerry-Bedell from Save Our Harbour Villages posed a question to the council’s cabinet during public question time at its meeting on Tuesday.

He said: “Fifteen Hampshire councils have stopped giving planning permissions and halted new housebuilding until a mechanism to deliver nitrate-neutral developments is agreed. Why hasn’t Chichester District Council done the same?”

New housing contributes nitrates to the water through sewage and Natural England is concerned high levels of extra human pollution are affecting protected sites in the Solent area.

Councillor Susan Taylor responded: “Officers receive formal consultation advice from Natural England, where relevant, when considering planning applications for new housing developments.

“Whilst Natural England has not so far raised this as an issue for Chichester District Council in determining planning applications, officers are aware of this important matter and are currently working with Natural England and others to identify appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of nitrates on the designated special protection area of Chichester Harbour arising from new housing in the Chichester Local Plan area, should it prove necessary.”

Hampshire councils are currently working to find practical solutions to meeting the nitrate-neutral target and residents in Chichester feel the same consideration should be given in the area around Chichester Harbour.

Mr Kerry-Bedell said: “Chichester Harbour is also classed as a highly-sensitive Nitrate Vulnerable Zone. These nitrates are what causes the huge areas of algae and weed we see in spring and summer, creating a hazard to other wildlife and costing a lot of money for boat owners in cleaning and antifouling.

“Housebuilding seems to be carrying on regardless here in Chichester, despite an extra 5kg of nitrates each year needing to be processed from every single new house being built.

“Developers say they can’t deal with the extra nitrates from houses they build but that’s simply nonsense. They can mitigate the effects of the houses by converting extra agricultural land they own over to non-nitrate use, as Poole Borough Council has a policy on. Alternatively, they can build a waste water treatment plant on site to neutralise all the nitrates, like they do at many other housing developments.”

Save Our Harbour Villages is following up by quizzing Southern Water on its performance at water treatment plants like Apuldram, Bosham and Thornham.

Mr Kerry-Bedell said: “We urgently need credible evidence that they have been coping with demand and whether they have been meeting nitrate standards.”

He asked a second question at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, asking exactly what plant work had been done since 2014 to increase capacity at Thornham, which serves the Southbourne area.

The group’s concern is further spills of wastewater into the environment.

Mrs Taylor responded, saying officers were currently reviewing the head room calculations with Southern Water and the Environment Agency as part of the Local Plan Review.