“Excessive” Phosphate Levels in North Cornwall and the Resulting Impact on Developers
Natural England has recently issued guidance to Cornwall Council in relation to development in the River Camel Special Area of Conservation. Phosphate levels have become excessive. This can cause an increase in algae which produce toxins that can be harmful to the animals that feed in that habitat.
Cornwall Council’s planning department is in discussion with the relevant agencies so to further understand the implications but until then there is likely to be an embargo on planning applications.
As a result, landowners and property developers in North Cornwall are bracing themselves for delays on various planning applications. A couple of large-scale housing schemes have already stalled as a result of this.
Similar embargos have been imposed in places such as Somerset which led to restrictions on the construction of new housing (amongst other things) until officials devised satisfactory mitigation measures.
At the moment it is unclear what the mitigation measures could be but they could involve the installation of adequate sewage treatment, potentially adding hundreds of thousands of pounds to the costs of development.
What does this mean for developers?
Well, at the moment the impact is unknown. What is likely is that Natural England will want to see mitigation measures included in your development scheme to show it is phosphate neutral. That could mean having to incorporate the cost of treatment plants on or off-site. This could have a significant impact on the design and layout of your development and restrict unit numbers. Time will tell as to the true impact.
What is clear is that planning applications will take longer, you will likely have to produce more planning reports and you may have to factor in a number of deductibles into any Option Agreement or Conditional Contract. Dealing with the unknown costs will inevitably be the source of much negotiations with landowners when trying to decide who will bear the financial impact.
If you are currently operating under an option or conditional contract then it is worth discussing with your legal and planning advisors to ensure you are clear you know what implications these delays could have on your contractual obligations. If you have not yet signed then make sure you factor this into any agreements at the outset.
If you need specialist advice regarding this, or any other property development related issue, then please contact me directly via tony.dupreez@GAsolicitors.com or call 01752 203500.