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River Camel phosphates mitigation strategy and policy

Draft Solutions Report 

Cornwall Council has published its draft solutions report for the River Camel phosphates issue.  You can read the report using this link: River Camel Phosphate Mitigation Solutions Report

The draft report sets out a range of potential mitigation solutions. If implemented they could help reduce the amount of phosphates entering the river.

Please note: The phosphate calculations used in this report to:

  • determine the likely phosphate removal of solutions and
  • estimate the phosphate loading from development

come from the Cornwall Council River Camel Phosphate Calculator (published November 2021).

We have updated our calculator to align with the Natural England guidance in March 2022.  You can find full details on our Nutrient neutrality and planning applications webpage.

We want to continue to progress our work on strategic mitigation.  The Solutions Report remains in draft as there may be some change in the phosphate figures.  This does not change the underlying analysis of the most appropriate mitigation.

We are developing an implementation strategy for the solutions taken forward by the Council.

Phosphates mitigation strategy

We are working with the Westcountry Rivers Trust, South West Water and landowners to identify solutions.  The next steps will be progressing the mitigation portfolio into setting up a credit scheme.

Mitigation portfolio

The Council proposes three mitigation streams:

  • nature based solutions
  • onsite treatment plants
  • constructed wetlands

These could have the potential to mitigate all development requirements in the River Camel catchment.  This would be for the current Local Plan period and beyond.

Nature based solutions

These primarily deliver short term (temporary) mitigation with some longer term options.  It involves working with landowners in the catchment to:

  • install riparian buffers
  • cover cropping
  • take land out of use etc  

We published an expression of interest and a prospectus of solutions.  This allowed landowners to come forward.  Initial feedback from the expressions of interest was positive.  Our focus is now on 3 or 4 specific schemes in the catchment.  We have ongoing assistance from Westcountry Rivers Trust.

Onsite treatment plants

We had over 100 expressions of interest in grant funding for upgrading septic tanks/package treatment plants in the River Camel catchment area.  This upgrading aims to reduce phosphates and would be used to create credits.  Given the level of interest, we are confident that this is a credible option.  We want to take this forward to enable a viable mitigation scheme.  We are currently exploring the legal mechanism with other LPAs nationally who are considering similar schemes.  We also have the assistance of the Planning Advisory Service.

Constructed wetlands

This includes:

  • wetlands treating river water and
  • wetlands downstream of wastewater treatment works.

The Council did a detailed mapping exercise to identify possible locations for developing wetlands treating river water.  The topography of the area limits options for significant wetlands.  It could be possible to install wetlands downstream of wastewater treatment works in the catchment.  We are currently exploring this with South West Water.

Credit Scheme

The above workstreams will enable the creation of a Cornwall Council phosphate credit scheme.  Developers/applicants will be able to buy credits so their developments can proceed.  Natural England need to agree there is enough certainty in the above schemes first.

We envisage the credit scheme to be set up in 2024.

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