The Local Democracy Reporting Service said one housing development decision had already been postponed. The European Court of Justice ruling means all development proposals need be checked over whether they drive up pollutants going into watercourses. In Somerset, further curbs are possible as the Somerset Levels and Moors is already in a fragile state.
The case ruling, known as Dutch N, concerns nitrogen and phosphates which are in fertilisers, and the limits placed on them to stop them from polluting the wider environment.
High nitrogen and phosphate levels in water can result in toxic algal blooms and can also deplete oxygen levels, resulting in fish and other organisms dying.
Natural England has written to all four district councils in the county, highlighting the impact on the Somerset Levels and Moors, as phosphate levels are already high.
During a Somerset West and Taunton planning committee meeting last week, a decision over the housing construction of 76 homes at Comeytrowe was delayed.
Portfolio holder for planning policy and transport, Mike Rigby, said: “This new advice from Natural England, following the Dutch N court case, will have a significant impact on the near-term development of the district.
“We are working closely with other councils in Somerset to address the potential impact of new development on the internationally recognised nature conservation value of the Somerset Levels and Moors.”
Mendip and Sedgemoor district councils are taking similar steps, but neither could say how many homes would be delayed or affected.
“The urban areas of Sedgemoor – in terms of Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge, are not linked to the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar catchment via any hydrological pathways, and therefore it is not expected that there will be an immediate issue in terms of our strategic growth in these locations,” a Sedgemoor District Council spokeswoman said.
“Discussions are continuing with Wessex Water, Natural England and our ecologists to better define the impact area and to consider the implications in other parts of the district.”
South Somerset District Council has yet to comment publicly on Natural England’s letter or the Dutch N case.
Originally published by BBC