Melsonby housing application on hold due to nitrates concerns

The revised site layout.

A controversial planning application for 44 houses in Melsonby has been put on hold amid concerns about chemicals getting in rivers and streams.

Numerous housing developments across a 710sq mile river catchment area are facing indefinite delays amid concerns that construction will exacerbate volumes of nitrates and phosphates in waterways.

Proposed developments near the River Tees or any of its tributaries in North Yorkshire, County Durham and Teesside have been put on hold following the government’s conservation advisor issuing advice on mitigating water pollution in the protected area around the Tees from housebuilding.

Several local authorities in the area have been advised by Natural England to refuse developments that are not phosphate and nitrate neutral, as the nutrients can speed up the growth of certain plants which can impact on wildlife.

Natural England director of sustainable development Melanie Hughes said: “Algal blooms and excessive vegetation growth can kill fish and prevent birds from feeding. These effects also reduce people’s enjoyment of these special places.

“The sources of excess nutrients include sewage treatment works, septic tanks, livestock, arable farming and industrial processes. These are long-running issues spanning decades and will be complex to resolve. However, without resolution of these, we will continue to see a decline in water quality and detrimental effects on our environment.”

Nutrient neutrality will see developers forced to mitigate the pollutants by creating wetlands, grasslands or woodlands that strip the nutrients from the water or offsets the pollution elsewhere.

A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee heard the new Natural England regulations meant developers would have to prove their projects would not impact nutrient levels in the river before applications could be considered.

The committee’s chairman, Councillor John Amsden said the authority was working to fully understand how the regulations would impact on areas linked to the River Tees, such as the River Leven, near Stokesley, and River Skerne, near Darlington. He said developments in areas outside the Tees catchment would not be affected by the regulations.

It is believed the regulations will also apply to developments in the Tees catchment that have previously been approved but not started. Some planners believe the regulations could lead to delays of up to 24 months on some sites as developers attempt to find more land to soak up nutrient run-off.

Councillors had been scheduled to consider a plan to build 44 houses, a  village hall and village green on agricultural grazing land in Melsonby, which had already taken seven years to reach planning committee stage.

Coun Amsden said nitrates in the Melsonby area had been found to be fairly high and ahead of the meeting Melsonby Parish Council had raised concerns about the area’s sewerage system, which sometimes discharged raw sewage into Waterfall Beck – which drains into the River Tees – during heavy rainfall.

While the parish council had described the housing estate proposal as “totally unacceptable” due to inadequate infrastructure, the authority’s planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, saying it would not “contribute towards flood risk or negatively impact on the existing sewerage and drainage infrastructure”.

Coun Amsden said: “The Melsonby proposal has been ongoing since 2015, but we have just had to put it on hold. It’s frustrating for all involved and has made things very difficult for everybody, but I gather the same thing has happened in the south of England.”

1 Comment

  1. Does this mean any house build east of the Pennines with a potential flow to a beck that eventually enters the River Tees is on hold until proven it doesn’t ?

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