MORE than 1,000 homes could be built in the Test Valley after a wildlife trust proposed a scheme to help tackle nitrate pollution in the Solent.

In a report to the Partnership for South Hampshire Joint Committee, plans for 1,038 homes have been “significantly backlogged” because of “high levels” of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Solent.

This comes after it was revealed nitrogen from housing wastewater and agricultural sources accelerated the growth of algae, which is believed to be damaging protected wildlife habitats and bird species around the straight that separates the Isle of Wight and England.

Now Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) has put forward a scheme that would see developers work with Natural England and planning authorities to agree a “nitrate budget” for their development.

If the scheme is successful, over 12,000kg of nitrogen could be offset in Hampshire which would mean 4,000 homes could be given the green light.

The report, published on Monday, February 10, reads: “Once the applicant knows how much nitrogen they need to offset, they can buy the required number of credits from HIWWT of 1kg of nitrogen per year at an agreed standard cost per credit.”

The report adds HIWWT will use the money to buy “poor quality intensive agricultural land”, agreed by Natural England, and transform it either into “wildflower meadows, scrubland, woodlands or wetlands”.

Officers from Partnership for South Hampshire have been working closely with Natural England, the Environment Agency, Southern Water and other partners to find a solution to the nitrate pollution.

Deputy leader at Test Valley Borough Council, cllr Nick Adams-King, said: “Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust brought forward a plan where land could be rewilded.

“We are going to be working with them because they have come up with a brilliant scheme, which would mean more places like Fishlake Meadows.

“They proposed the scheme at the Partnership for South Hampshire meeting in Fareham and Natural England were happy with the idea, so it looks like there might be a solution on the horizon at last.”

As previously reported in the Romsey Advertiser, cllr Adams-King said the authority used to receive two or three applications for new homes each week, but the numbers have dropped since councils were advised not to grant planning permissions  unless developments are “nitrate neutral”.

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: “While the Environment Agency regularly provides advice to local authorities, the decision to grant or reject a planning application is solely a matter for them.

“We work closely with councils and bodies inside and outside government to support sustainable growth and ensure the environment is protected.

“Any release of nitrates into watercourses must comply with the law through the Environment Agency’s stringent permitting system.”

A spokesperson from Natural England said: “We are working hard to improve the vital habitats in the Solent, by enhancing biodiversity and improving water quality. As part of our work, we have supported the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in developing a nutrient offsetting scheme to deliver new havens for wildlife and alleviate the housing pressure in the local area. We will continue to work with them as the scheme is developed.”

The next joint committee for Partnership for South Hampshire is on March 24.

Natural England and Southern Water has been contacted for comment.