The River Mease is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the importance of the species and habitats it supports.

River Mease and Nutrient Neutrality

Alongside other local planning authorities in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire, we have received advice from Natural England in relation to nutrient neutrality for developments in the River Mease Special Area of Conservation (SAC) catchment. We also received a letter from the Government's Chief Planner about the same issue.

The letter advised that new development within the catchment of these habitats comprising overnight accommodation can cause adverse impacts to nutrient pollution. Such development includes, but is not limited to:

  • new homes 
  • student accommodation 
  • care homes
  • tourism attractions
  • tourist accommodation


There may also be some cases where some forms of development not involving overnight accommodation may cause adverse impacts to nutrient pollution.

Natural England have confirmed that development in some catchments, including the catchment areas for the River Mease SAC, cannot proceed if it increases levels of nutrients or results in eutrophication. Development can now only proceed if it is ‘nutrient neutral’. 

The Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2017 require local planning authorities to ensure that new development does not cause adverse impacts to the integrity of protected habitats, such as the River Mease, before granting planning permission. There are currently no identified mitigation solutions available locally to resolve these impacts. 

We are working to understand the advice and its consequences for developments within the River Mease SAC catchment area.  The implication of the advice from Natural England is that the Council, in its capacity as competent authority, cannot approve developments in the SAC catchment area that would increase foul drainage discharge from sites comprising overnight accommodation to the mains sewer system, as the Council will be unable to conclude that such development would not result in an adverse impact on the SAC; nor could it decide that any adverse impacts could be properly mitigated.

We are working closely with neighbouring authorities and Natural England to better understand the implications and identify possible options for mitigation to ensure sustainable development can proceed. Unfortunately, it is not possible to state how long this may take to resolve. However, we will keep this web page updated with more information as it becomes available.

The Nutrient Budget calculator (see link below) provided by Natural England is the first step to understanding the nutrient load of a development. It can help identify whether a proposal is likely to add to the nutrient load within the catchment and require mitigation or whether the development can be considered nutrient neutral.  In the latter case, where development is nutrient neutral, subject to confirmation from Natural England, such developments can likely be approved without mitigation. 

The calculator provided below is an updated version published by Natural England in February 2024 to include all the Severn Trent Water waste water treatment works upgrades in the Mease catchment announced in January 2024.  Natural England has also provided a guidance document and a link is also provided to the .GOV website (see below) to help with the completion of the calculator.

Please note Natural England advise that at present some elements of the guidance (national methodology, nutrient budget calculators) issued by Natural England should be considered as provisional due to the outstanding appeal to the Court of Appeal in Wyatt v Fareham BC [2021] EWHC 1434 (Admin), which although not concerned with the national methodology issued on 16 March 2022, could impact on certain elements contained within the methodology because that case considers similar (but not identical) earlier guidance issued for other parts of the UK.

Natural England intends to review the national methodology following judgment in the appeal in Wyatt which may require amendments to be made.

Natural England’s advice can be found below:

Advice on using the nutrient budget calculator can also be found at the following website -

Please note that if you are considering a proposal for development of a site in the River Mease SAC catchment (other than householder developments), then in order to obtain pre-application advice on how nutrient neutrality and other planning matters would affect your proposal, the Council offers a pre-application advice service for which a fee is payable -

River Mease Standing Advice – January 2022

Natural England published Standing Advice for the River Mease SAC in January 2022, which is available to view at the link below:

River Mease Standing Advice - Advice to Local Planning Authorities - Natural England, January 2022 (PDF Document, 0.24 Mb)

River Mease Update – November 2020

It has recently been announced that the project to pump out treated foul flows from two key Sewage Treatment Works at Packington and Measham in the Mease catchment has been put back to 2027.  This new deadline has been agreed by Severn Trent Water, who are responsible for constructing the pipeline to take foul flows out of the catchment, following discussions with the Environment Agency, who want to assess the likely effect of the transfer of treated effluent on downstream river flows prior to construction works commencing.  To allow for this assessment the timetable for completing the works have been put back to 2027.  Previously the pump out was agreed to take place by the end of 2025.

The extended completion date could affect the delivery of new homes, business premises and infrastructure, across the River Mease catchment. 

Schemes that already have planning permission, will not be affected by this announcement, including Money Hill, Ashby.

For North West Leicestershire District Council this means that development in Ashby de-la Zouch, Packington, Measham, Oakthorpe,Blackfordby, Norris Hill and part of Moira could be affected. 

However, North West Leicestershire District Council, working with our partners on the River Mease Programme Board, are seeking to identify a number of ‘bespoke’ projects over the coming months to remove phosphate from the River Mease Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and its tributaries.  Once identified, these projects will need to be funded by developers, as was the case with previous developer contribution schemes. However, in contributing to these works, developers will be able to ensure that the effects of their development on the SAC are fully mitigated by removing an amount of phosphate from the river equivalent to that which will be generated by their development and will allow for continued growth. 

In addition, there is no capacity left within the Developer Contribution Scheme 2 (DCS2) for new developments which also affects developments in the settlements of Donisthorpe, Spring Cottage, Chilcote, Appleby Magna, Snarestone, Swepstone and parts of Newton Burgoland and Moira. 

North West Leicestershire District Council are also continuing to progress discussions regarding interim solutions and non mains drainage schemes will be considered in some instances. 

Additional information on the River Mease SAC including the projects being undertaken to improve the condition of the River can be found at

Further information can be accessed using the following links, including correspondence from the Environment Agency (PDF Document, 0.1 Mb)outlining the flow monitoring work they wish to undertake, the Joint Statement (PDF Document, 0.39 Mb)between the Environment Agency, Natural England and Severn Trent Water and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs (PDF Document, 0.61 Mb)) document prepared by the River Mease Partnership.

Those communities in North West Leicestershire not highlighted above are unaffected by these issues. 

Additional River Mease Information

The organisations in the River Mease Partnership are involved in a number of ongoing initiatives and activities to improve the River Mease SAC, from improving its water quality through the management of the river and its catchment, to providing a better environment for wildlife. Further information is available about the River Mease at

Survey work by the Environment Agency revealed the quality of the water in the river was poor, mainly due to high phosphorous levels. 

As a precaution against increasing phosphorous levels, since 2009, new development in the area has been restricted, leading to delays in planning applications and a knock-on effect on the local economy.  

The River Mease Programme Board* has adopted an updated Developer Contributions Strategy (DCS2) to enable developers to pay a direct contribution to keeping water quality high in the River Mease. The principle is a simple one – the polluter pays. Any development which will have an impact on the amount of waste water going into the sewerage system – and therefore which will have a knock on effect on discharges into the River Mease from water treatment works – will have to make a contribution to the costs. The scheme directly funds the actions that will help to improve the water quality and so will improve the environment for wildlife and people alike.

The developer contribution scheme is over and above actions which have also been taken to impose stricter limits on phosphorous levels at a number of local water treatment works.  Together these limits and the developer contribution scheme will have a combined impact on reducing phosphorous levels in the river and its habitats.

River Mease Developer Contribution Scheme 2 (DCS2) (June 2016) (PDF Document, 0.63 Mb)

River Mease DCS2 Appendix 1 (June 2016) (PDF Document, 0.65 Mb)

River Mease DCS2 Non Technical Summary (June 2016) (PDF Document, 0.1 Mb)

DCS2 replaces the previous Developer Contribution Strategy (DCS1) which can be viewed at:

River Mease SAC Developer Contribution Strategy (PDF Document, 0.5 Mb)

River Mease SAC Developer Contribution Strategy - Appendix 1 (PDF Document, 0.14 Mb)

A map of the area subject to the River Mease SAC Developer Contribution Strategy is here: River Mease Catchment Area (PDF Document, 6.24 Mb).

In order to speed up the process of drafting a legal agreement, we are also now asking for applications to be accompanied by a form providing us with information regarding the applicant’s solicitor’s details, title details etc (Legal Agreement Information for Unilateral Undertaking for River Mease DCS Contribution (Word Document, 0.1 Mb)).

Natural England have prepared a standing advice document which can be viewed at: River Mease Standing Advice - Advice to Local Planning Authorities - Natural England, January 2022 (PDF Document, 0.24 Mb). The purpose of this advice note is to provide information to help local planning authorities to determine planning applications within the River Mease catchment, but it can also be used to assist in preparing planning applications which may affected the River Mease SAC. This fourth issue replaces previous standing advice by updating the situation regarding the Developer Contribution Scheme (DCS) which has now reached its limit; provides information on recent rulings affecting Habitat Regulations; and provides details on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) provision.

*The River Mease Programme Board comprises of: The Environment Agency, Natural England, Severn Trent Water, North West Leicestershire District Council, South Derbyshire District Council and Lichfield District Council.

Last updated: Mon 15 April, 2024 @ 11:08