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DDC Email to planning application agents (Sept 2021)

DDC Email to planning application agents (Sept 2021)

Dear Sir/Madam

I’m writing to you in respect of the processing of the above planning application.

The reason for contacting you relates to the proximity of your application to the nationally and internationally protected sites at the Stodmarsh Lakes and the identification, by Natural England, of the potential for effluent discharges from new development in this location to harm water quality at the lakes; a consequence of high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous deposition. Natural England have identified that discharges to water courses in this area, and in particular from the Dambridge waste water treatment works (WwTW) into the River Stour, have the potential to contribute to this harm. To address this and similar risks from other development elsewhere in East Kent, Natural England have published a methodology to ensure new development demonstrates ‘nutrient neutrality’. The methodology is available on the Council’s webpages: Stodmarsh Nutrient Neutral Methodology (dover.gov.uk) together with the latest advice from Natural England.

At present, for otherwise acceptable applications to be granted planning permission, the process of demonstrating nutrient neutrality in line with the Natural England guidance, involves all proposals (with a net increase in population served by a wastewater system e.g. a single dwelling or more) being subject of an ‘appropriate assessment’ (AA), under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (more information is available at Appropriate assessment - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). Due to the challenges associated with applicants submitting robust evidence in support of on AA however, for agreement by the planning authority in consultation with Natural England, Dover DC has commissioned research and is working with other authorities in Kent to find potential solutions, that will hopefully enable suitable development to take place, while safeguarding the integrity of the protected sites.

Most notably, Dover DC has commissioned hydrological experts to determine whether there is a hydrological connection between the Dambridge WwTW and the Stodmarsh Lakes system. The original study was completed in July, however the initial outputs were inconclusive. Further modelling is currently being carried out, the outputs of which will need to be reviewed by Natural England. It is hoped this can be concluded by October. If it can be determined that there is no hydrological connection, Natural England has advised that the Dambridge WwTW will be removed from their guidance and the nutrient neutrality issue will therefore not need to be addressed for development in Dover District. However, should the study remain inconclusive or determine there is likely to be a hydrological connection, then further options will need to be reviewed.  

If you’ve had your planning application delayed for some time now as a consequence of the above, it’s appreciated this may have been a cause of some frustration. If you’ve only recently lodged your application, I’m afraid it’s possible delays in processing may occur for the reasons outlined here. It remains the case of course that each applicant can decide to demonstrate nutrient neutrality for their own scheme in accordance with the Natural England guidance.  As mentioned though, it’s because of the particularly challenging nature of compiling suitable evidence that Dover DC and other Kent authorities have been trying to find solutions to unlock the delays.  

I hope this update is of use. Should you have any questions arising or about any other issues associated with the determination of your application, please contact your planning case officer. Updates will also be provided on the relevant Dover DC Nutrient Neutral Methodology webpage (referred to above).  


Yours faithfully,

Peter Wallace
Planning and Development Manager