Temporary pause on development in the River Camel Special Area of Conservation

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.


This page gives notice of a significant issue about:

  • the levels of phosphate entering the River Camel and related advice from Natural England
  • the impact of this on development and some planning applications in the river's catchment area.

River Camel Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

The River Camel Special Area of Conservation  is designated under the Habitat Regulations 2017.   The SAC covers 69km and includes headwaters of the Camel and De Lank rivers and their joining with the River Allen. 

The area extends from:

  • between Camelford and Tintagel in the north
  • following close to the A30 from Bolventor to Bodmin
  • and just south of the A30 from Bodmin to Roche
  • to parts of St Breock downs and between Wadebridge and Egloshayle in the west of the area.

You can view more information using this link: River Camel Designated Area of Conservation

You can view the area as a constraint using the Council's interactive map.  It is located in the Environment and Planning folder on the Maps layers legend.

The reasons for this area being a Special Area of Conservation are the populations of:

  • Bullhead (Cottus gobio)
  • Otter (Lutra lutra)
  • Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Excessive phosphates in the River Camel SAC

Cornwall Council has received a letter from Natural England about the levels of phosphates in the River Camel.  Natural England considers the River Camel SAC to be at risk from the effects of eutrophication.   Excessive phosphates cause eutrophication.  Current mitigation measures will not reduce nutrient levels enough.

Impacts on development in the River Camel catchment area

A nutrient neutral approach to development is needed to avoid direct and indirect adverse impact on the River Camel SAC.  We have:

  • reviewed advice from Natural England
  • sought legal advice
  • produced a phosphate calculator
  • updated our local validation list.

We are:

  • producing a strategic mitigation strategy 

What this means for current planning applications

The Council paused decision making for certain development types in the River Camel catchment area.  The introduction of the phosphate calculator will help developers understand the level of phosphates a proposed development will generate.  A planning application will only be able to proceed to a positive recommendation if:

  • the proposed development is phosphate neutral or
  • there is identified mitigation that can be secured.

There will however be some developments that will need to wait for the strategic mitigation strategy to come forward.

Our phosphate calculator went live on 21 October on our Nutrient neutrality in Cornwall page.  It contains:

  • the calculator and tutorial video
  • guidance and links to help you progress.

More information on submitting an application can found using this link: Considering an application in the River Camel area

Types of application affected

This impacts planning applications currently stalled in the system and new submissions.   

You can find more information using this link: Types of development and applications affected

Latest news

The Council appointed Royal Haskoning as consultants to  produce a phosphate calculator.  It is now available for use.  We continue to work on a strategic mitigation strategy.  You can find more information on the strategy work in the River Camel Phosphate Strategy Literature Review.

We are working with Natural England, the Environment Agency and South West Water to find a solution as quickly as possible.  We will update further as work progresses.  We held workshops with stakeholders in early November.  You can find information from the summary event on 10 November on our River Camel stakeholder page.

Latest updates on these pages:

Latest update: 18.01.22. We will provide further updates on these pages regularly.

If you have any questions, please email positiveplanning@cornwall.gov.uk in the first instance.

Cornwall Council is the ‘competent authority’ under the Habitats Regulations, (The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017).  It is legally required to assess the potential impacts of projects and plans on internationally important sites which include the River Camel SAC.  Before determining planning applications that may result in additional  phosphates within the catchment, competent authorities should undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). 

This is when the environment becomes enriched with nutrients.  It can be a problem in marine habitats and can cause algal blooms.  Some algae produce toxins harmful to the animals that feed in that habitat.

The delay in determining applications will impact on delivery of new homes.  It could impact:

  • 5 year land supply
  • Housing Delivery Tests.

The current 5 year land supply is at 6.7 years so we have some 'buffer'.  Our initial view is that a 2 year delay will not impact supply significantly.

There have been two judicial reviews (JRs) that challenged the approach of Fareham Borough Council.  That Council granted permission for two small housing developments. 

The main grounds of the challenges were about how Fareham had tried to ensure the development didn't cause harm to the marine environment of The Solent. This applied to both cases.

After considering extensive evidence from all parties, the High Court made its judgement on 28 May 2021.  It concluded that Fareham's approach to mitigating the effects of nitrates on The Solent was legally sound.

The specific challenges were:

  • The 'Save Warash' JR - Save Warash and the Western Wards v Fareham Borough Council and Others: Case No CO/3397/2020 dated 28 May 2021
  • The 'Barad' JR - Wyatt v Fareham Borough Council and Others: Case No CO/4168/2020 dated 28 May 2021

We held a stakeholder event for agents on 4 November as part of wider engagement.  You can find information from these events using this link: Stakeholder workshops

The presentations from the Agents Forum on 21 October are available on our Planning Agents Forum webpage.

The slides from the session on 20 July are available using this link: River Camel presentation to Agents 20.7.21

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