Nutrient neutrality is a new issue of major importance to the UK. There are 74 planning areas in the UK where residential development has been held up until a solution is found to prevent absolute levels of P (reported as phosphorus not phosphate) and N (nitrogen) increasing in order to protect valuable habitats. The ruling is is often referred to as the "Dutch N" case. The calculation is complex and depends on the efficiency and any headroom of existing waste water treatment works (WWTW). WWTW are also to be subject to reductions in permitted nutrient emission in 2030.

Reduction may be achieved by reducing nutrients entering the catchment from other sources (largely closure or restriction of livestock units but may also be via additional buffers alongside water courses) or via removal from the water course. Reedbeds are the main means of nutrient removal. However, nitrogen removal is significantly greater than the removal of phosphorus. The low level of nutrient in the water means that removal is low compared with typical crop offtake.

Many agents and planning authorities refer to P and N credits (i.e. payments) per kg of each nutrient but there are no universally applicable values. Ultimately the value is determined by the ability to supply and the demand. Where supply is limited the value is determined by the cost of any alternative action (such as on site removal, a tank and pumped removal or to build elsewhere). Economically more valuable properties can afford to pay more. The cost of alternative solutions is high and potentially at least £10k per housing unit for small developments and around £5-6k on average. There is likely to be further payments for management over the project life of at least 80 years.

Related Organisations

Content below is from across the PEP community and is not necessarily endorsed by Stewards or by PEP

Connected Content

This page is to connect organisations, projects and resources that have an interest in improving the quality of our water sources.

Policy plays a critical role in shaping the agriculture industry in the UK and Europe. Government policies can have a major impact on the way that farmers operate, the crops they grow, and the prices they receive for their products. Policy has a major effect on how land is managed and environmental outcomes.

Managing nutrients effectively is crucial for our soils, crops, livestock and environment. There are many resources and initiatives available to help. 

Help us collate the knowledge sources, organisations and initiatives out there that are seeking to improve the farmed environment

Diffuse pollution in agriculture refers to the contamination of water, soil, and air by chemicals, nutrients, and other substances that are used or produced in agricultural activities.

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