Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP has visited a unique site in Havant as its borough council became the first local authority in the country to enable regeneration and redevelopment through the novel solution of creating a nature reserve.
After local housebuilding was put on hold because of warnings about nitrates polluting the sea, innovative Havant Borough Council purchased a farm which will be transformed into a haven for overwintering waders and brent geese – and will be run at no cost to the council or its residents.
The coastal site will enhance the borough’s internationally important coastline, and also help mitigate against rising nutrient levels across the area.
Nutrient levels – which can harm coastal feeding grounds – have recently impacted on planning applications for new homes along the Solent coastline – but Havant Borough Council has worked closely with Natural England to develop an innovative solution. This novel approach enables new developments to calculate their nutrient levels, and access a cost-effective scheme to offset their impact.
Because this is an easy to use offset mechanism it means that the area will be able to deliver much-needed development and regeneration.
The council’s new nature reserve – totalling 60 acres - will be able to be run at no cost to the council or its residents because what is paid to offset the development will be used to maintain and enhance the reserve.
The site removes both an agricultural site from adding to nutrient levels while allowing developers to maintain the site through paying for their smaller nutrient addition.
The nature reserve will provide a new and welcome amenity to residents and visitors and helps ensure the borough’s long-term prosperity.
On a visit to Warblington Farm, Environment Minister Pow, said: “I am thrilled to announce this funding which uses nature-based solutions to alleviate the housing pressure in the local area. 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.
“As the nation recovers from coronavirus it’s more vital than ever that we build-back greener, and this project will also help people to connect with nature by providing more green spaces for them to enjoy.”
Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, added: “This is a beautiful part of Hampshire, rich with wetlands, coastal inlets and shingle beaches, and it’s no wonder that more people wish to live in the area, creating demand for new homes. 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. This innovative new scheme that Natural England has helped design will not only help nature’s recovery in the area, but also address the historic demand for new housing around the Solent.
“It is but one example of how it is possible to find solutions to apparently intractable challenges, and to fund them, meaning that we can build more homes while at the same time protect and enhance the rich and varied wildlife of this unique area. It also reveals how it is possible to harness regulation in a positive way, to create incentives for the recovery of the local natural environment, in turn benefiting people living in the area.
Partnership Manager for Bird Aware Solent, Anna Parry, said: “Internationally protected birds such as curlew and brent geese migrate here every winter from the Arctic, and after their long journeys they need plenty of space to feed and rest.
“This site offers a tremendous opportunity for these iconic birds to thrive and flourish locally, helping to safeguard their futures.”
Solent LEP Business Director, SJ Hunt, said: “The project at Warblington Farm, in which the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has invested £225,000, is an excellent addition to the Solent Recreation Mitigation Project, which has developed and improved strategic green areas across the region.
“In addition, these valuable local areas bring green spaces closer to the Solent community, providing countless health and wellbeing benefits, and reducing the need to travel further to reach other beauty spots.”
The Leader of Havant Borough Council, Councillor Michael Wilson, added: “I am delighted that our pioneering approach sees us as the first local authority in the country to tackle this issue head-on.
"Our innovative and original solution not only helps secure the long-term prosperity of our area - it will also create a nature reserve which will be a haven for wildlife and birds.
"We have worked extremely hard to find a way to protect our cherished environment and ensure the vital investment and development the borough needs can take place.
"By working so closely with our partners we have found a radical solution to what seemed, at first, to be a complex challenge.
"I’m proud to say our borough is very much open for business!”
For more information on the council's nutrient mitigation solution - including summary infographics, documents and more - visit www.havant.gov.uk/nitrogen.