Last reviewed 15 September 2020

The Government will invest £3.9 million in a “first-of-its-kind” project to set up an online “nitrate trading” auction platform.

The £3.9 million nitrates trading platform will be used to unlock a major housing project in south Hampshire, where planning decisions for 10,000 homes have stalled because high levels of nitrates are damaging internationally protected habitats, and new housing would exacerbate the problem.

High nitrate concentrations in soil causes excessive growth of green algae which smothers and damages rare habitats, including the Solent’s internationally protected estuaries, salt marshes and seagrass beds, as well as protected birds, including curlews.

Under the scheme, housing developers will buy credits to create new habitats such as meadows, woodlands and wetlands, which will prevent harmful levels of nitrates from new housing from reaching the Solent’s rare wildlife and habitats.

Announcing the new nitrates offset scheme, Environment Minister Rebecca 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.”

Nitrate credits, purchased by housing developers, will also be used to fund a new nature reserve at Warblington Farm, a site covering 60 hectares of new woodlands and wetlands. The new farm will help remove nitrates and in turn reduce pollution impacts on the Solent.

Natural England, which helped design the scheme, said the project provides a way of addressing housing needs whilst protecting local wildlife. Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said: “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.”

The nitrate trading platform pilot will be rolled out over the next two years and delivered jointly with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Natural England and the Environment Agency.