Agenda item

Phosphates Update


(Councillor Adam Dance left the meeting near the end of the officer presentation of this item, Councillor Mike Stanton was then in the Chair from 2.55pm).


The Lead Specialist, Built Environment explained that he was attending Area North to provide a brief update on the situation regarding the managing of phosphates in relation to development. He noted that several members may have been involved in discussions on the same issue at Full Council the previous week. He gave a brief overview of the history to the current situation to remind members of the issue. Some of the points he raised included:


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

·        Land based mitigation would require either Local Government or 3rd party bodies to identify and deliver land management based solutions.

·        The phosphate calculator was 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.

·        From an operational perspective, the phosphates mitigation work has substantially increased the workload for each impacted application.

·        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 110 house 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.

·        The Royal Haskoning document 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.  

·        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.

·        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.

·        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.

·        This wasn't only a problem for Somerset and it was happening elsewhere across the country, with about 25 local authorities impacted.

·        Should start to see land management solutions coming forward in South Somerset (non-strategic sites) in the next few months.


During a very brief discussion, the Lead Specialist, Built Environment responded to a point of detail raised about the possibility of lobbying central government to consider suspending the five-year land supply protocol in the current circumstances.


A member asked a specific question regarding the possibility of some funding to purchase phosphate testing kits for local use which had been raised previously at a member briefing. In response, the Chairman noted he would take the matter forward with the relevant portfolio holder.


There were no further questions. The Chairman acknowledged that members had received a lot of information recently about the phosphates situation, and he thanked the Lead Specialist and wider team as much work had been done.


Members were content to note the verbal update.

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