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Phosphates on the Somerset levels and moors

The Council is committed to development only taking place if it is sustainable development that includes relevant environmental protections. Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has recently declared an ecological emergency complementing the climate emergency declaration made in February 2019.

The quality of the natural environment in our area is of a particularly high standard. Parts of the district fall within the Somerset Levels and Moors. Within this area various locations are of national and internationally significance for wildlife. Thus the Somerset Levels and Moors are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Habitat Regulations 2017 and listed as a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention.

We have recently received a letter from Natural England about the high levels of phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors. The same letter has also been sent to the other Local Planning Authorities in Somerset.

In light of a court Judgement (known as Dutch N), Natural England have advised SWT that, in light of the unfavourable condition of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar Site, before determining a planning application that may give rise to additional phosphates within the catchment, competent authorities should undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).

The types of development include:

  • New residential units – including tourist accommodation, gypsy sites /pitches
  • Commercial developments – new commercial floorspace including extensions to existing, change of use from one business to another where there is an increase in employees and/or to a use that would impact on wastewater
  • Agricultural Development – additional barns, slurry stores etc. where it is likely to lead to an increase in herd size
  • Prior Notifications of agricultural development where, as a result of the development, the herd size may increase. Also, prior notifications for change of use of office to dwellings and agricultural buildings to dwellings
  • Anaerobic Digesters
  • Possibly some tourism attractions

We are working with our Ecologist and Natural England to find a solution as quickly as possible. We will update this page with further information as soon as we are able and we will be regularly updating this webpage to keep you informed of progress. 

If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact