The Chichester Harbour Trust responds with concern to the Government announcement last week relaxing environmental protections relating to housing development.
The government announced on 29th August that 100,000 more homes are to be built via reform of “defective” EU laws, relating to nutrient neutrality.
The Chichester Harbour Trust fears that without properly funded and proven alternative measures in place, the environmental degradation of the Harbour will further decline, as thousands of additional properties discharge nitrates through wastewater into a system already substantially over-capacity. The additional funding required to support Natural England’s evolving Nutrient Mitigation Scheme places additional burden on taxpayers, rather than developers. The £200m additional funding proposed nationally to reduce agricultural run-off and upgrade water treatment works represents a drop-in the ocean in addressing the impact of this level of development. Whilst not without its flaws, the existing nutrient mitigation system made an attempt to offset the impact on our sensitive waterways of housing development.
Furthermore, the Government’s own watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, has stated that the changes will “demonstrably reduce the level of environmental protection provided for in existing environmental law, and that the Government has not adequately explained how…new policy measures will ensure it still meets its objectives for water quality and protected site condition.”
Chair of the Chichester Harbour Trust, John Nelson, said; “We echo the concerns raised by other conservation groups that this announcement is a backward step in protecting our precious wetlands and waterways, and displays a lack of commitment to protecting our environment as outlined in Government’s own 5-year Environmental Improvement Plan”.
John added, “There is no shortcut to investing in infrastructure to support development. Changes in water regulation are urgently needed to allow and compel water companies to invest in water treatment capacity. Investment must come before development”.
The Trust urges the Government to review and reconsider these policy changes to reflect long term environmental protection for our unique and precious harbours, seas and rivers.
Image credit © Paul Adams, “'I must go Downs to the sea again ...'
The South Downs above Kingley Vale opens this vista of Chichester Harbour and the Solent beyond to the Isle of Wight.