Somerset needs action on phosphates
For two years development in Somerset has been stymied by regulations from Natural England. Responding to serious degradation of the Somerset Levels, NE have introduced a policy of “nutrient neutrality”. This means that phosphate pollution from any new development, must be “offset” by reductions in pollution elsewhere. In Somerset West & Taunton, they have tried to address this by buying land for reed beds. The land can then be sold to developers as a sort of credit, against the phosphate pollution their developments will create.
The phosphate pollution comes from sewage which is allowed to flow into river systems during storm overflows. Last year the Leveller reported that some storm overflows in the Levels area, ran for the equivalent of 100 days a year. That’s 100 days of pumping untreated sewage into our the Levels.
Government have mandated that water companies must clean up their act. However they have given water companies until 2030 to bring down phosphate pollution to acceptable levels. Councillor Ros Wyke, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Development and Assets is not happy with that. Today she has written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and George Eustice, Secretary of State Defra. In her letter she demands that the 2030 deadline should be brought forward.
Cllr Wyke makes clear the council’s support for the protection of the unique environment of the Somerset Levels: “SCC is acutely aware of the impact of pollution on our local environment. We recently declared an ecological emergency in the county. We are also, however, aware of the devastating impact of the current lack of investment by water and sewage companies on the provision of new homes in the county… New housing is a minimal contributor to nutrient levels but is being disproportionately impacted by the issue.”
The next Leveller Confidential will feature a longer piece on this issue including the actions of former environment minister Rebecca Pow.