New Defra backed scheme will see housing developers fund new projects to tackle nitrate pollution in the Solent
A new 'nitrate trade platform' is to be piloted in the Solent area, in a bid to stimulate house building while protecting the area's important natural habitats.
The scheme, announced late last week by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), is part of a £3.9m package designed to combat the excessive growth of green algae. The algae smothers and damages the rare habitats and wildlife, which form the Solent's internationally-protected estuaries, salt marshes, and seagrass beds.
Concerns over nitrate levels have led to a pause in housing growth for more than a year, but under the new trial developers will now be able to buy credits on an online nitrate trading platform that should enable some new developments to proceed.
Defra said the approach would help fund the creation of new habitats such as meadows, woodlands, and wetlands which would then help prevent harmful levels of nitrates building up in the Solent.
"Not only will this innovative scheme unlock thousands of much-needed homes for the local area, but it will provide habitat rich areas for wildlife in a true win-win," said Environment Minister Rebecca Pow.
Pow added that, in the aftermath of coronavirus, pilots such as this would help the economy to "build back greener".
The initiative was designed in partnership with Natural England. It's chair Tony Juniper described the platform as a solution to an "apparently-intractable" challenge.
"It's no wonder that more people wish to live in the area, creating demand for new homes," he added. "More people does, however, mean more nitrogen getting into the environment, and this is causing the growth of green algae 'mats' in the Solent, affecting protected habitats and wildlife along the south coast."
As part of the package, a new 60-hectre nature reserve has also been established to remove nitrates from the local environment. Warblington Farm - which opened this week - features new woodlands and wetlands that will be funded through the credits which housing developers purchase.
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