Mendip moves to protect precious Levels and Moors

Mendip District Council is taking measures to protect the Somerset Levels and Moors when determining planning applications.

The move follows guidance given to Somerset local authorities by Natural England, concerning the high levels of Natural Englandphosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moor. The organisation stresses the need to protect them from further phosphate pollution.

Natural England state that in light of the unfavourable condition of the Somerset Levels and Moors, authorities should undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) before determining planning applications that may give rise to additional phosphates within the catchment. (This guidance follows a court judgement affecting International Wildlife sites known as 'Dutch N').

This means the Council is currently unable to determine some planning applications until the impact the development would have on phosphate levels has been addressed, and where necessary, mitigation is secured.

The Council is in the process of writing to those it believes may be affected, and is in the process of developing a method to assess the impact of developments on phosphate levels, and where appropriate, put together a package of measures that may be required to offset that impact.

Cllr Garfield Kennedy, Portfolio Holder for Local Plan and Policy, said: "Mendip District Council is committed to sustainable development and the new advice received from Natural England is of great concern. We know this will have significant impacts in the near future on developments in our area.

"The quality of the natural environment in the Somerset Levels and Moors must be of paramount importance if we are to deliver the commitments we made in February 2019 to tackle the climate emergency in our district. We must do everything within our power to protect those sites of national and international importance - for all our futures."

Parts of the Mendip district fall within the Somerset Levels and Moors which are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Habitat Regulations 2017 and listed as a Ramsar Site* under the Ramsar Convention**.

Further information is available on the Council's website: Phosphates on the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar Site

Notes to editors:

*A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance.

** The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO It came into force in 1975. It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources.