Great Yarmouth new home decisions on hold amid pollution fears

See how The Pines at the former Pontins holiday site in Hemsby is developing.

Decisions on plans for homes and holiday lets are currently suspended across Norfolk. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Developers will see a halt to decisions being made over new homes being built in a large part of the Great Yarmouth borough because of concerns about pollution to the Norfolk Broads.

Government advisor Natural England has informed Great Yarmouth Borough Council that it must not grant planning permission for any schemes involving 'overnight accommodation' in a specific catchment area, until plans can prove they will not lead to more nutrients flowing into waterways.

Every council in Norfolk - and the Broads Authority - has been affected, to varying degrees, by Natural England's announcement.

Waterlilly on Cockshoot Dyke. Picture: James Bass Photography

Natural England have enforced the decision to encourage nitrogen neutrality in the Norfolk Broads. - Credit: JAMES BASS PHOTOGRAPHY

Councils have been told to delay giving such schemes - including houses, holiday lets and care homes - the go-ahead until impacts of new developments are assessed and measures put in place to prevent pollution.

And, in the absence of being able to provide that yet - councils have suspended granting of permission within the catchment areas of the Broads - including an area north of Great Yarmouth, near Caister.

In Great Yarmouth, the council says this announcement means no planning application for housing can currently be approved within the catchment area of The Broads.

A spokesperson for Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) said: “With minimal notice Natural England has extended the areas covered by what are known as ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules to cover large parts of Norfolk.

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"This means anyone applying for planning permission for overnight accommodation in these areas – such as new housing or holiday accommodation – along with some other types of development now has to show that this will not cause any negative impact on the Broads, or if it will that this is being offset in some way.

"The rapid introduction of these rules makes it very difficult for people applying to provide the necessary evidence, and without this we cannot grant planning permission for affected applications."

Natural England has issued the order because it wants to encourage nitrogen neutrality.

Computer-generated artist’s impressions showing the new housing development at Beacon Park. Picture:

All undecided plans for housing and holiday lets in the borough have been put on hold. - Credit: Ingleton Wood

When nitrogen and phosphate nutrients enter water systems it can cause excessive growth of algae - known as eutrophication.

That reduces the oxygen in the water and makes it harder for aquatic species to survive.

Those nutrients generally come from sewage treatment, septic tanks, livestock, farming and industry.

But wastewater from new developments can worsen the issue.

Natural England wants councils to assess how planning proposals can mitigate the expected increase in nitrogen and phosphorus from a new development, so that they can become nutrient neutral.

Riding jet-skis in the Broads network has cost two men hundreds of pounds in court Picture: Simon C

Riding jet-skis in the Broads network has cost two men hundreds of pounds in court Picture: Simon Carter - Credit: Archant

The GYBC spokesperson added: “The Broads is an internationally important habitat, is rightly cherished, and needs to be protected.

"However, we also need to ensure that we can support our residents and our economy through carefully considered and environmentally sensitive development.

"We are working with Natural England, the Broads Authority, and the other councils across Norfolk to understand the implications of the new rules and to provide practical help to people applying for planning permission."

Melanie Hughes, director of sustainable development at Natural England, said the organisation would help councils to make the assessments and come up with mitigation.

She said: "Many mitigation measures will involve the creation of new wetlands, woodland or grasslands - providing new spaces for nature and recreation in the process - or installing environmentally-friendly sustainable drainage systems.

"We recognise that nutrient neutrality won’t be easy to adopt in many cases.

"But we would like to assure our stakeholders that Natural England, working alongside our partners, will support planning authorities and developers to implement it effectively so that they can build sustainable new homes and contribute to healthy rivers, lakes and estuaries nearby."

View of the New Bridge over Breydon water, Great Yarmouth.

Breydon Water from a drone. - Credit: Arielshotsuk Instagram

The government is offering £100,000 to councils in each catchment area affected, to pay for dedicated catchment officers to come up with approaches to mitigation.

Norfolk's councils are among more than 70 affected nationally - and there is currently no timescale on how soon the issue will be resolved to allow schemes to be approved.

Norwich has also been affected, with major schemes waiting for planning permission including the proposed revamp of Anglia Square, which includes more than 1,000 homes.