Natural England's assessments during 2019/20 suggest that more than 3000 hectares of the intertidal parts of Chichester Harbour, which is the subject of several European designations, is now classified in an "unfavourable - declining" condition.  Natural England's Condition Review of Chichester Harbour sites was published in February 2021. 

Water quality is a contributing factor to the build-up of excess nutrients in the Harbour causing eutrophication (algal growth) which impacts on the Harbour's ecology and conservation.  Sewage from new development using waste water treatment works or an on-site package treatment plant that discharges to Chichester Harbour contributes to the excess nutrients in the Harbour (albeit in small amounts relative to other sources) and therefore needs to be considered in line with the Habitats Regulations.  This means that before agreeing to a proposal (such as a planning application or a development plan) the authority needs to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment and be satisfied that the proposal will not have any adverse impact on the protected site or sites.  Certain types of new development will now need to be nutrient neutral to avoid detrimental harm to the Harbour's ecology and conservation.  

Nitrate mitigation schemes have already been incorporated into planning permissions.  These permissions may provide some help to applicants who need to propose their own mitigation scheme as part of their planning application, details are provided below of the planning reference and where the scheme details are referred to. 

  • Apuldram WWTW - 20/02483/PA3Q (S106 Agreement)
  • Bosham WWTW - 20/00486/FUL (Decision Notice), 20/00876/FUL (Decision Notice)
  • Thornham WWTW - 20/00164/OUT (Decision Notice), 20/00593/FUL (Decision Notice), 20/01786/PA3Q (Decision Notice)

Guidance

Natural England has published detailed guidance on achieving nutrient neutrality (updated June 2020) which includes a methodology for calculating the "nutrient budget" of proposed development.  As part of the information needed to determine planning applications, if a relevant proposal (primarily those involving an overnight stay) is likely to discharge into Chichester Harbour, then a nitrogen budget will need to be prepared and submitted with the planning application.  Natural England's Guidance sets out when and how nutrient neutrality must be achieved with catchment maps to clarify the areas that are affected. 

Southern Water has produced a helpful infographic providing a broad overview of the issues of nitrates in Chichester Harbour, and this is also available to view.

Joint working

We are a working with the Partnership for South Hampshire (PfSH) and other authorities affected by the issue of nutrients through the PfSH Water Quality Working Group. In light of the advice from Natural England, one of the key areas of work that the PfSH Water Quality Group is currently focussed on, is nutrient mitigation.

PfSH and other affected authorities, including Chichester, have together employed a Strategic Environmental Planning Officer (SEPO) whose primary objective is to provide a strategic response to the issue of nutrient neutrality across the impacted areas of the Solent.  As well as providing a single point of contact to the development industry and landowners who may be able to offer mitigation solutions, the SEPO monitors the supply and demand relating to nutrient neutrality mitigation and engages with stakeholders to facilitate mitigation schemes coming forward to satisfy demand.  The SEPO also aims to promote consistency between local planning authorities regarding the legal process required to secure mitigation through the planning process.

The SEPO's progress is reported in a "Nutrient Mitigation Update" newsletter and as these are published, they will be made available to access: