Green fields highlighted by sunrays through heavy clouds from Curbar Edge

Nutrient Neutrality

peak district landscape

Planning applications required to achieve "Nutrient Neutrality"

What is Nutrient Neutrality?

Natural England has issued new advice to the National Park Authority that affects the way we deal with planning applications for certain types of development on land that is within the water catchment of the upper River Wye. Such applications must demonstrate ‘nutrient neutrality’ in order to receive planning permission.

This is to protect water quality in the designated ‘Derbyshire Dales Special Area of Conservation’ - an area rich in rare flora and fauna including notable aquatic species such as white-clawed crayfish.

An excess of nutrients – in particular phosphates – is harming the delicate ecosystem. The main cause of phosphate pollution is treated waste water.

The  Planning Advisory Service has produced a  useful guide.

Which area is affected?

Land within the ‘nutrient neutrality SSSI catchment’ as shown on this map.

What types of development are affected?

Anything which generates additional wastewater such as:

  • Houses
  • Significant commercial development that attracts people as visitors
  • Tourism accommodation

Agricultural developments that lead to an intensification of use are also affected.

What do applicants need to do?

Planning applications must include a full Habitats Regulations Assessment.  Planning permission can only be granted if it is certain that the development will not adversely affect the habitats site. If adverse effects cannot be ruled out, then it is unlikely that permission can be granted unless suitable mitigation is available. Suitable mitigation is that which achieves ‘nutrient neutrality’.

Natural England’s nutrient neutrality guidance can help you to work this out. For a copy of the Peak District calculator, please contact our Customer and Business Support Team on

How can mitigation be achieved?

National and local mitigation schemes are currently being developed. Meanwhile the Planning Advice Service recommends:

  • on-site measures such as SUDS which can also be retrofitted into existing developments
  • agricultural land use change (e.g., intensive agriculture to woodland)
  • treatment wetlands (Wastewater Treatment Works, Package Treatment Plants)
  • interceptor Wetlands (agricultural run-off)
  • replacement of inefficient Package Treatment Plants/Septic Tank.

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