Why is phosphate pollution a problem?

Phosphorus is commonly used in fertilisers to boost crop yields, but it also boosts the growth of algae when the mineral seeps into rivers and ponds.
It’s also found in many other forms of human waste, from sewage to the soapy water used to wash cars. When algal blooms occur due to high phosphate levels, algae use up the oxygen in the water and blocks out the light, killing off other aquatic lifeforms – this is called ‘eutrophication’. It can be incredibly damaging to populations of fish, plants, water-dwelling invertebrates and the animals which rely on them for food.
Natural England nutrient neutrality map

What is the new nutrient neutrality guidance?

The UK has some of the highest phosphate pollution levels in the world, and Natural England has recently addressed this by announcing new guidance on ‘nutrient neutrality’.

A large number of catchments across the country are affected by this pending guidance. Over 40 local planning authorities have already been identified by Natural England as target areas for nutrient neutrality. According to Savills, at least 20 councils were advised by Natural England that permission could not be granted for new developments that are not nitrate and phosphate neutral.

Wastewater from new housing developments is a priority in this new guidance, which recommends the creation of new wetlands, woodlands and grasslands among other measures to reduce nutrient outflows from new construction projects. Other measures include the typical sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) which you may be more familiar with.

The Natural England nutrient neutrality map of catchments shows which areas are likely to be affected by the new guidelines. Natural England cautions that this new guidance is provisional, pending the outcome of a court case. However, over 30 local planning authorities have already been contacted by the organisation regarding nutrient neutrality, in advance of the expected rollout.

How we help you achieve nutrient neutrality.

Ecosulis has a special area of expertise in wetland creation and natural flood management solutions, with extensive experience of practical and advisory work across the UK.

These solutions, recommended by Natural England, trap phosphates and other minerals (including nitrates) and embed them in the natural environment, preventing them from leaching into nearby watercourses. We have also worked on innovative rewilding solutions, including Beaver wetlands, which are scientifically proven to reduce downstream phosphate and nitrate levels.

Find out more from Natural England.

Still curious and want to know more about the official guidance from Natural England?

You can read the press release here, on the government website, or get in touch via the form below and we'll let you know how we can work together to make you compliant.
Barn Owl

Sandford Farm, Reading

Housebuilding company Taylor Wimpey contracted Ecosulis to provide both ecological consulting and habitat creation services at this site. Per Natural England's recommendations for phosphate removal, we restored wetlands, meadows and woodland on the site as part of our natural flood management works.

The changes to the parkland area not only resulted in an increase in biodiversity, but also improved public access. Taylor Wimpey's links with the local community were enhanced by the restoration of this parkland.

Attenborough Nature Reserve SSSI, Nottingham

Flood alleviation works to the Attenborough Lakes SSSI were required to protect Nottingham, and the Environment Agency appointed Ecosulis to undertake habitat creation, maintenance work and bird protection services.

We planted over 250,000 native wetland species within silt beds 300mm below the water level. These plants will absorb phosphates and nitrates, reducing the likelihood of eutrophication and providing a marked improvement to biodiversity. Ecosulis was also contracted to create valuable fen swamp and wet woodland habitat, which are valuable flooding and phosphate mitigation solutions.
Attenborough SSSI

River Soar, Leicester

The conventional flood defences in Leicester’s urban areas have been under increasing pressure due to increasing frequency and severity of flooding. In 2019, the Environment Agency commissioned Ecosulis to co-design and implement a pilot natural flood management (NFM) project at three sites along the River Soar.

Ecosulis was identified as a suitable partner due to our industry-leading knowledge and expertise in NFM. We felled trees, carried out interventions in the riverbed and improved water retention in natural flood features within the landscape using a combination of traditional and modern techniques. The site’s water and phosphate retention capacity has been significantly boosted, slowing the return of groundwater to the river during high rainfall and reducing the pressure on Leicester’s urban flood defences.