Monthly Archives: May 2024

Phosphorus Embargo Update – Somerset

Phosphorus Embargo Update – Somerset

It has been around three and a half years since the start of the phosphorus Embargo on the Somerset levels this issue affects settlements far as part as with a liscom Wells and Sherborne quite a large area!


But what about the progress being made to get people building again, well there are a few things which do work and a few things which don’t, and I will describe those here.

Ultimately it can be said that for certain sites we can now almost guarantee success but the nature of these sites means that not many people will be in this favourable position for other sites in towns and particularly those in small rules settlements which are on main service the phosphorus situation remains a very thorny and stubborn issue in as part of the planning process.

This is a picture of stodmarsh Nature Reserve as the name suggests this is a marshy nature reserve in Southeast of England in the photograph there is rough grass in the foreground with dried long grass perhaps from some four they're also around a third of the area visible in the photograph is covered with reads there are various field enclosures shown which are have main grass again with tufts of dry grass showing that the dry grass is a yellowy brown color but also areas are open water showing which take up about 10% of the image the area is very flat and in the very rear of the picture you can see a line of mature trees in the distance sky is blue there are various pleasant looking white fluffy clouds

Things We Could Be Getting On With

The Good

So what does work well if you are building something in the middle of nowhere and intending to use private drainage and our sufficiently far away from main strainage to avoid having to connect to it then you’re in a good position provided you have about 0.6 of a hectare for trees in the early days we were quite often recommend a small wetland for these sorts of projects but in most areas these are now rendered impossible to approve owing to natural England’s wetland assessment Matrix which is extremely overbearing assessment tool that renders wetland mitigation all but useless by the time you’ve worked out all of the uncertainties.

However woodland remains very good option and 0.6 hectares of woodland will offset a house provided it is on a very efficient private drainage system this is quite a neat little rapport which we have written quite a few of and they seem to do the trick.

The Bad

For those situated within major settlements within the Parrett, Tone and Brue catchments you can expect to have a local sewage works which treats wastewater to a reasonably high level with regards to phosphorus so for example Taunton sewage works at present treats water down to 0.9 milligrams per liter which is pretty good and some other areas of lower still following recent upgrades which is helping greatly in the amount of credit that people have to buy.

So provided you can find some credit which is not very easy you can in fact move projects forward in large towns at a reasonable cost which is not overbearing as I say finding a credit is tricky but the financial side of this is generally acceptable and feasible for standard construction sites.

Face Palmus Maximus

The Ugly

For those people in moderately sized towns and small villages which are served by mains drainage the phosphorus embargo has left them in a real pickle for example Wellington Sewage Works has a treatment efficiency of five milligrams which means that house builders in Wellington are having to buy quite considerable amounts of credit just to offset one house in fact probably around half a kilo per dwelling which if bought from a commercial scheme can cost around £20,000 pounds which is not feasible given the price of houses in the area. Of course for prestige homes with five or six bedrooms and high specifications this Twenty Thousand pound overage becomes less important, but for affordable homes and other smaller dwellings it’s a complete disaster in terms of feasibility. The only option here is to try and build your own credit scheme which is difficult and I will expand on this below.

The Diabolical

When Sergi Leoni made The Good The Bad and The Ugly he stopped at ugly. But we have one further category here which is diabolical and that relates to the legal morass around the issuing of phosphorus credits.

The furthest advanced schemes that we have pursued I’ve been in the Taunton and West Somerset area and although we had some early access early successes with upgrading septic tanks and using those credits to support specific planning applications for credit schemes to be used in a similar way to carbon credits (i.e. run as an account) they have to be registered registered with Taunton and West Somerset as an “official scheme” however, this is a tricky thing to accomplish, as whilst the scientific basis for creating credits whether it be from ecosystem services or drainage upgrades is well established and supported by both Natural England and the various consultees involved in the planning process, the legal system for tying donor sites to receiver a site is not very well developed.

In fact the council have been very reluctant to provide any guidance on this legal framework having run around 16 or so solicitors and lawyers in the Somerset and Devon area some of which I know personally I cannot find any information on the form of this legal agreement and as such it remains Out of Reach in fact recently we abandon the £200,000 pound phosphate phosphate credit scheme which obviously we would have been very pleased to have completed on owing to a complete lack of guidance and support with regards to the legal paperwork that is required in order to register it as an official scheme with Taunton and West Somerset now publishing the fact that they are in financial district trouble we are not overly optimistic of receiving any good advice soon.

Services Relating to Nutrient Neutrality

Equivalent First Zone – Right to Light

Equivalent First Zone – Daylight Assessment

For many years we have been using the old paper and pen method to calculate VSC (Vertical Sky Component) and APSH (Annual Probable Sunlight Hours) and for many sites it is still possible to use this method.

However, the new BRE 209 guide has migrated from ADF values to far more complex calculation requirements, which are now only possible to do with a computer model.

Equivalent First Zone

For a long term client we have also offered to calculate Equivalent First Zone values for Existing vs Proposed Site Layout. This has been a steep learning curve for us, but we have managed to produce several sets of Equivalent First Zone calculations that indicate the maximum building possible to achieve, without compromising right to light.

So time moves on we miss our pens and our paper, but it is plain to see that the computer model does an extortionary volume of calculations in no time at all, and can derive values for very complex layouts where we mat have struggled in the past, and Equivalent First Zone Calculations they can carry out a days worth of calculations in just a few seconds.


Soakaway Testing Warminster – Wiltshire

Soakaway Testing Warminster  – Wiltshire

Another day. . . another hole in the ground with water in it.

soakaway testing in wiltshire in chalk

Today we have been in sunny Wiltshire, doing some soakaway tests on a residential development site. As is obvious from the pictures above, the site is on chalk. The chalk in this instance was weather and with patience could be excavated using an. . . . excavator.

We dug the hole very closed to the location ear-marked on drawings for the actually planned crate soakaway system. The results were not too bad, as the water infiltrated at a reasonable rates.

If you require BRE 365 soakaway testing for a planning application or for design purposes we can arrange on a quick turnaround. Please contact us for a quotation.