Agenda item

Phosphates Update


The Lead Specialist, Built Environment explained that he was attending Area South Committee on members request to give a brief summary of where the five Somerset Councils are in terms of managing phosphates.  He also explained what work was being done at a national level with the increasing problem of the phosphate impacts on development across Somerset and beyond.


Some of the key points he raised included:


·         The history and background of the phosphate situation and the impact within the areas of South Somerset.

·         The creation of the phosphate calculator, a tool that allowed applicants and agents to understand the likely phosphates emissions before and after development to create a differential which was the level of phosphate mitigation they would need to deliver.

·         This process has allowed some developers to use existing land, upgrade existing cesspits and other small scale solutions to allow smaller housing developments but not currently strategic scale development.

·         One significant project delivered houses in Crewkerne where the applicants were able to fallow a large amount of land to provide an offsetting through not spreading phosphate fertilizer on that land.

·         Working with Royal Haskoning to produce a follow up document that gives a ‘best practice’ guide.  This sets out where the most effective land management solutions would come from for best value for money in terms of visibility and costings and provide an opportunity for land owners whether promoting projects would suit them.  

·         The aspiration was to produce a supplementary planning document that sets out national and local policy to each individual planning applications and the benefits of this document.

·         Explained the work currently being done by Somerset West and Taunton council and their commitment to delivering phosphate mitigation projects.  However they currently have retained council hosing stock, which SSDC do not have, although we are working with local housing associations to encourage these mitigation projects.

·         The five Somerset councils wrote to Defra and what was the ministry for housing, communities and local government last year requesting they consider funding infrastructure improvements.

·         Additionally, the council’s requested that central government should apply pressure to Ofwat (Water Services Regulation Authority), who sign off on the improvement plans of Wessex Water and others to improve their programmes for phosphate stripping where this is not currently programmed.

·         Solutions required are not at a district or county level and that national standards and national best practice needs to be rolled out to help Natural England with more evidence rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’ as progress is made.

·         There was currently a lack of coordination and focus in terms of the national bodies involved in the process.  The solutions need a coordinated approach at government, non-governmental organisation level, and those associations that represent the various interests involved.

·         Working with EnTrade (a Wessex Water derivative) to help part fund and future monitoring work going forward to deliver land management solutions.

·         Land management solutions are unlikely to be the long term primary solution given the likely land take involved. There needs to be a recognition that engineered solutions need to come forward more quickly with a common priority.


In response to question from members, the Lead Specialist, Built Environment gave the following responses:

·         Wessex Water are the company that services South Somerset but the frustration being we need to look to represent a larger geographical area and work together across the various councils involved.

·         Believed that nearly 300 planning applications are currently being held up in South Somerset.

·         Wessex Water have provided a programme of water treatment works to be upgraded across Somerset but have not provided any costing figures per plant.  He believed the entire works were phosphate related.


Members wished to thank the Lead Specialist for his comprehensive presentation.   They appreciated the detailed information involved and therefore requested a short briefing note be circulated to members for their information.   The Lead Specialist was happy to provide this and would circulate to members separately.






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