Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Solent nitrates: Scheme to buy farmland to cut pollution

Portsmouth coastline Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pollution levels have to be reduced if any new houses are to be built

Pollution issues preventing new homes from being built in south Hampshire could be tackled by buying fields to turn into woods, meadows or wetlands.

Five councils accepted Natural England advice in 2019 to refuse new housing developments amid nitrate level concerns in the Solent.

Nitrate pollution was said to be damaging wildlife habitats and birds.

The scheme is among measures being considered by The Partnership for South Hampshire (PfSH).

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption No new homes can be built in south Hampshire until nitrate pollution in the Solent is reduced

The PfSH said it was now looking to find the money to buy the farmland.

The group said it was liaising with Natural England and the Environment Agency to determine how much land might be required.

More than 7,000 planning applications are currently on hold while councils work to find solutions to nitrate concerns, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Nitrogen from housing and agricultural sources has accelerated the growth of algae in the Solent area.

Image copyright Ian Knight
Image caption Nitrogen from housing and agricultural sources has accelerated the growth of algae

PfSH chairman Sean Woodward said after working with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIOWWT) the group of local authorities had "come up with a proposal to purchase very poor quality agricultural land which has loads of nitrates on it".

'We will then re-green it which means planting trees and plants and introducing animals."

A Natural England spokesman said it was in support of developing the "offsetting scheme to deliver new havens for wildlife and alleviate the housing pressure in the local area."

Retro-fitting water efficiency measures in local authority owned housing is also being considered by the group.

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