Nutrient neutrality

Nutrient neutrality

Helping you deliver viable solutions at catchment-scale

Nutrient neutrality has halted development in various areas of England and Wales, hitting home builders particularly hard. The need to provide nutrient mitigation with sufficient certainty that lasts ‘in perpetuity’ means the development sector is facing significant barriers to new proposals. Uncertainty around the viability of specific mitigation measures is limiting industry confidence to invest in solutions.

To achieve the best environmental outcomes from nutrient neutrality, strategic approaches are needed to deliver long-term, catchment-scale nutrient reductions and support national homebuilding targets.

Solutions: what we know

Although there is no single ‘catch-all’ mitigation solution to achieve nutrient neutrality, there are a range of Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) that are able to reduce the impact of nutrients entering the water environment. While the full benefits of these solutions are yet to be fully documented, Ricardo’s work in this area and existing data from case studies shows that the following nutrient mitigation solutions have been successful:

  • Agricultural land conversion
  • Aquaculture conversion
  • Wetlands construction

In addition to the above, Natural England, supported by Ricardo, is developing guidance for how buffer strips and agroforestry approaches can be used with sufficient certainty to deliver mitigation. Other potential solutions could provide further opportunities to provide nutrient mitigation, given the right strategic planning. Identifying key local challenges and the relevant stakeholders needed to develop strategic solutions is the key to success.

How can Ricardo help?

Our expert team can help you to:

  • Determine mitigation feasibility with a strong understanding of NbS and how they can both support nutrient neutrality and provide wider benefits.
  • Provide the technical assessments to support Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) Appropriate Assessments.
  • Complete HRAs of nutrient neutrality as well as other potential impacts on designated sites, including those related to air quality.
  • Provide advice and practical assistance on how to calculate nutrient budgets and the nutrient impact of non-residential developments.
  • Provide strategic advice on how to achieve nutrient neutrality at a catchment-scale and deliver wider environmental benefits using our expert understanding in Natural Capital.
  • Ability to work with landowners including those in the agricultural sector utilising our professional network of farm advisers.  

Benefit from expert support

The technical expertise and project delivery experience of our teams means our experts are ideally placed to advise competently and efficiently on which solutions are likely to be successful relative to development size and location. We are on hand to flag early if a proposed solution will not work.

  • Save on costs and resource through first-time identification and pursuit of the most appropriate and viable nutrient mitigation solution(s) likely to succeed in addressing your key local challenges.
  • Improve success rate of planning applications and achieve building targets, while avoiding costly delays to project completion and the risk of projects getting stalled indefinitely.
  • Make better informed decisions as a result of specialist support from technical experts who can guide you through development of viable strategic plans to deliver nutrient mitigation at the catchment scale.
  • Identify relevant local stakeholders for potential collaboration, whose support can help secure and strengthen long-term mitigation success.
  • Avoid critical loss of time and investment on solutions that are unlikely to be successful.

Our experience

Ricardo has supported numerous local planning authorities and developers across industry to assess the feasibility of nutrient mitigations schemes and identify viable solutions. Our work to date includes delivery of:

  • Nutrient budget calculators on behalf of Natural England to enable developers to quantify the nutrient mitigation required for a new residential development.
  • Interim Delivery Plan for Herefordshire Council that has helped to move forward strategic mitigation in the Lugg catchment, as well as delivery of a Phosphate Credit Allocation Policy.  
  • A feasibility assessment of Warblington Farm mitigation scheme on behalf of Havant Borough Council, one of the first nutrient neutrality mitigation schemes in the UK.
  • Ongoing projects include, supporting:
    • Natural England to produce guidance on what makes a viable nutrient mitigation proposal.
    • Carmarthenshire County Council in completing the first strategic plan for tackling nutrient neutrality in Wales.
    • Delivery of training to Welsh Government on nutrient neutrality in relation to HRA.

For more support on planning for nutrient neutrality and delivering solutions at the catchment-scale, get in touch via the form on this page.