Defra has announced £ 3.9 million to encourage residential real estate growth in South Hampshire to reduce harmful nitrates and aid wildlife recovery.
Residential real estate growth in the Solent area has stalled for over a year amid fears that nitrates cause a number of negative environmental impacts. These include overgrowth of green algae that suffocate and damage rare habitats and wildlife, including the internationally protected estuaries, salt marshes and seagrass meadows of the Solent, and protected birds, including curlews.
The government will invest £ 3.9m in the first of its kind to set up an online auction platform for the nitrate trade. In this way, property developers will buy loans to create new habitats such as meadows, forests and wetlands. This prevents harmful nitrates from new homes from reaching the rare wildlife and habitats of the Solent. This will also provide more outdoor spaces as part of the government’s ambitions for an environmentally friendly, nature-based recovery from the coronavirus.
A new wildlife sanctuary also opened this week at Warblington Farm – an area of 60 acres of new woodland and wetlands – funded by the loans that developers are acquiring. The new farm will help remove nitrates, thereby reducing the impact of pollution on the Solent.
Eurasian curlew, Copyright Szymon Bartosz, from the Surfbirds Galleries
Environment Secretary Rebecca Pow said: I am delighted to announce this funding that uses nature-based solutions to ease housing pressures in the area. This innovative program will not only unlock thousands of much-needed homes for the region, it will also provide habitat-rich areas for wildlife in a real win-win situation. As the nation recovers from coronavirus, it is more important than ever that we get greener again. This project will also help people connect with nature by giving them more green spaces to enjoy.
Natural England played a key role in advising experts on the innovative program, including assisting in the selection of suitable locations to create new areas for habitat creation.
Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England added: This is a beautiful part of Hampshire, rich in wetlands, coastal inlets and pebble beaches, and it’s no wonder more people are wanting to live in the area which is driving demand for new homes. However, more people mean that more nitrogen is released into the environment. This leads to the growth of green algae mats in the Solent and affects protected habitats and wildlife along the south coast. This innovative new project, which Natural England helped create, will not only contribute to the recreation of nature in the area, but will also meet the historic demand for new homes around the Solent. It’s just one example of how it is possible to find and fund solutions to seemingly unsolvable challenges, which means we can build more homes while protecting and enhancing the rich and diverse wildlife of this unique area. It also shows how it is possible to use regulation in positive ways to incentivize the restoration of the local natural environment, which in turn benefits the people living in the area.
The pilot project for the nitrate trading platform will be introduced over the next two years and will be carried out together with the Ministry of Housing, Municipalities and Local Government. Natural England; and the environmental agency.
The Minister of Housing Christopher Pincher said: Building the homes the land needs is central to this government’s mission and an important part of our plans to recover from the effects of the coronavirus. This innovative project will create new homes while protecting and improving our natural environment for today and for future generations.
Defra is also currently in discussions with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust about a potential loan to purchase additional property for the program.
Debbie Tann, CEO of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: Solent nitrate pollution is devastating our vital marine ecosystems and suffocating life in our seas. This is a really critical issue, and until recently, every newly built home has simply put the pressure on it. Thanks to Natural England and Defra, we are now taking important steps to address this issue – to ensure that houses can only be built if the effects of nitrate are properly addressed. We are delighted that the government is supporting our nature-based solution, and this funding will enable us to create wonderful new wildlife sanctuaries while helping to cleanse our environment.
If successful, the pilot could be expanded and introduced to a number of other areas to allow for much wider application in other parts of England. This will also influence the government’s broader work on market-based solutions to environmental problems such as carbon offsetting, net biodiversity gains, water quality and flood risk management.
The announcement builds on the Last speech by the environment minister There he launched a £ 5 million pilot project to re-assess natural capital and the ecosystem. This will improve the basic understanding of habitats and biodiversity across the country in each planning agency in order to make the best decisions about realizing the government’s vision of keeping the environment in better condition than we found it to be. This will better protect species and habitats and ensure that new developments actually mean a net gain for humans and nature.
Today’s step also builds on that landmark government environmental law This will address the greatest environmental priorities of our time, including introducing the net biodiversity gain, which will ensure that the new homes we build are delivered in ways that protect and enhance nature.