North West Hampshire’s MP and the leader of Test Valley Borough Council have headed to Westminster to try and “unblock” the delivery of new housing in Test Valley.

Kit Malthouse and Councillor Phil North met with the Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher, to lobby him over the issue of nitrate neutrality. At present, this requires that for all the nitrates generated by new housing, mostly in wastewater, these have to be mitigated by other actions, such as taking agricultural land out of use, or introducing plants and animals that use nitrogen to grow.

This requirement is due to a 2018 EU court ruling, which led Natural England to subsequently advise planners in areas with rivers that drain into the Solent that their developments should not add excess nitrates. This is designed to protect the Solent by preventing eutrophication, where nitrogen allows algae to grow rapidly and starve marine life of oxygen and light.

In Test Valley, this means that any developments around the River Test, River Itchen, and River Avon, as well as any of their tributaries, must be mitigated. The Fullerton waste treatment works for Test Valley, however, strips out less than other facilities, meaning that up to three times as much land is needed for mitigation, according to Cllr North.

He said: “It’s my firm belief that Fullerton should be nitrate stripping anyway - because it’s the right thing to do - but there’s currently no requirement from the Environment Agency for them to do so.

“I’m pleased that the Housing Minister has agreed to take up this particular point with the Department for the Environment, so we can protect our precious waterways and try and unblock the delivery of new homes in Test Valley.”

The requirement for houses to be nitrate neutral affects a number of councils in the local area, including those for Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and East Hampshire.