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

Cornwall Council have a team of officers working on resolving the issues in the River Camel area.  This page is the River Camel phosphates mitigation project home.  Please use the Related content links on this page to find out background to the issue and our online information.

Excessive phosphates in the River Camel Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Cornwall Council received a letter from Natural England about the levels of phosphates in the River Camel in 2021.  NE considers the River Camel SAC to be at risk. Current mitigation measures will not reduce nutrient levels enough.

A nutrient neutral approach to development is needed to avoid direct and indirect adverse impact on the River Camel SAC. The Council engaged consultants, Royal HaskoningDHV, to work with officers on solutions.

What have we done so far

We have:

  • reviewed advice from Natural England
  • sought legal advice
  • produced and updated a phosphate calculator (now v3)
  • updated our local validation list
  • produced a draft solutions report.

We continue to work with Royal HaskoningDHV 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.  We will update further as work progresses.  

What this meant for current planning applications

Cornwall Council is the 'competent authority' under the Habitats Regulations (The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017).  It legally has to assess potential impacts of projects and plans on internationally important sites.  These include the River Camel SAC. Competent authorities should do a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) before determining planning applications that may increase phosphates in the area.

Following NE's letter, we paused decision making for certain development types in the River Camel catchment area.

The delay in decisions 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.

The phosphate calculator helps understand how much phosphates a proposal will generate.  Some developments need to wait for the strategic mitigation strategy to come forward.

You can find our phosphate calculator on our Nutrient neutrality and planning applications page.

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

You can find links to all our nutrient neutrality information on the Nutrient Neutrality in Cornwall page.

Latest news

Latest news and updates on the Nutrient Neutrality in Cornwall webpages include:

  • Presentations from stakeholder event on 12 March added
  • Updated phosphate calculator added to reflect new duty on water companies 

Latest update:  13.3.24. 

If you have any questions for the project team, please email in the first instance.

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