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

Cornwall Council, Town and Parish, and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections information and results.

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 these links: River Camel Designated Area of Conservation

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 and a temporary pausing of 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 are:

  • reviewing advice from Natural England
  • seeking legal advice.

What this means for current planning applications

The Council is taking precautions by pausing decision making in the River Camel catchment area.  We cannot approve new developments unless they can show they are nutrient neutral.    

Types of application affected

This will impact planning applications currently in the system and can include:

  • new residential units including:
    • barn conversions
    • tourist accommodation
    • gypsy sites or pitches
  • development that supports agricultural intensification
  • anaerobic digesters
  • prior notifications of:
    • agricultural development
    • change of use of office to dwellings
    • change of use of agricultural buildings to dwellings.

This is not a complete list.

Latest news

We know this will cause concern if you have or are planning to submit an application in this area.  We will work with Natural England to provide a way forward as soon as we can.  We will publish updates on this page.

If you have any questions, please email planning@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.

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