IEMA has published a new paper on nutrient neutrality that sets out what it is, why it’s important and confirms regulations and policy surrounding the scheme. Lesley Wilson, Policy and Engagement Lead on Biodiversity and Natural Capital, tells us more.

Nutrient neutrality came into being through the EU in a legal case in the Court of Justice in 2018 (known as the Dutch nitrogen case) that resulted in a ruling that the impact of nutrients in water bodies can no longer be postponed into the future.

Natural England subsequently advised local authorities that mitigation measures forming part of Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRA) must demonstrate no adverse effect ‘beyond reasonable scientific doubt’. The benefits of the mitigation measures must also be ‘certain at the time of the assessment’ before planning permission can be given. Any development that will have an adverse effect will need to provide suitable mitigation. This means that until mitigation is available, development in the areas affected will need to be considered carefully.

This affects areas where Natural England has advised LPAs where national and international sites (formerly European sites) are in unfavourable condition due to excessive nutrient levels.

In September 2023, there was a period of uncertainty because of proposals to withdraw the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme through an amendment to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. However, the House of Lords rejected the amendment at the end of 2023 and the legislation achieved assent. In an announcement on 20 December 2023, the UK Government confirmed that Natural England will continue to deliver the £30 million Nutrient Mitigation Scheme.

Because of this confusion, it seems an appropriate time to take stock of nutrient neutrality requirements and reaffirm the important role they play in the protection of nature. This new paper is designed to help get relevant professionals across sectors up to speed on this important piece of regulation.

The paper is an invaluable tool for developers and local authorities to understand why nutrient neutrality is important, legislation and regulation, issues around implementation, history, and mitigation in action.

IEMA member can download their copy here

Non-IEMA members can purchase the document here (within 'Biodiversity and Natural Capital')

Photo of Lesley
Lesley Wilson

Policy and Engagement Lead

Lesley is Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA with a focus on biodiversity and natural capital. Lesley also supports IEMA’s role as Secretariat to the UK Business and Biodiversity Forum, working with businesses to raise the profile of, mainstream, and share good practice in, biodiversity. Lesley joined IEMA in December 2021 after 11 years delivering projects, programmes and solutions for business in the field of environmental sustainability for the British Standards Institution (BSI), including ground breaking standards in biodiversity net gain and natural capital. Lesley has a qualification in business management (MBA) and climate change management, and mentors environmental students at the University of Westminster.


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