Ships, Spitfires and Shoosmiths’ Solent planning team, Southampton is home to them all.
Previously known as ‘The Gateway to the World’, for years people have visited Southampton to reach distant and exotic locations. As one of England’s foremost commercial ports, Southampton has a unique cultural heritage, a thriving commercial centre, and a bright future.
The Solent region, of which Southampton forms part, boasts a plethora of development opportunities but bears some unique challenges. Highlights include:
- Nitrate pollution – High levels of nitrates from housing and agricultural sources have caused eutrophication (the excessive growth of green algae) in protected waters in the Solent area. This is, in turn, is having a detrimental impact on protected habitats and birds, as well as slowing development. This has led to Natural England advising all local planning authorities in the Solent region that new planning permissions should only be granted if they can demonstrate ‘nitrate neutrality’ to decrease the level of nitrate outputs from development, which is causing eutrophication in the Solent.
Solutions to the issue are available, and Shoosmiths’ planning team act for landowners in the Solent area who have established nitrate mitigation schemes that involve creating nitrate ‘credits’ by taking land out of agricultural production and returning it to nature. The resultant ‘credits’ are then traded and allocated to developments to offset their nitrate output. Shoosmiths has been advising such landowners by putting the appropriate legal documentation in place to record the nitrate credit allocation, which in turn then unlocks development.
- Solent Freeport – Selected as one of only eight regions in England to be a Freeport, is the Solent Freeport due to begin operations this year. It will benefit from more generous tax reliefs, customs benefits and wider government support - bringing investment, development, trade and jobs to the Solent.
Paula Swain, head of Shoosmiths’ business debt recovery team and head of the firm’s Solent office, has been appointed as the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) representative on the Solent Freeport Consortium Board.
- Southampton Airport expansion – Eastleigh Borough Council granted planning permission for a 164-metre extension to the runway at Southampton Airport in June 2021. While the extension will undoubtedly create wider development opportunities in the Solent, its future is in doubt following a judicial review claim by a local campaign group on environmental and noise pollution grounds. We will watch with interest, but generally support such expansion and investment in the area.
- Strategic land – Shoosmiths’ planning team are advising on a number of strategic development sites in the Solent region, including Welborne Garden Village, a mixed use development to deliver 6,000 homes, shops, schools, employment and local facilities. Aldershot Urban Extension, a brownfield regeneration site of mixed use development including 3,850 new homes. And Berewood, a new neighbourhood near Waterlooville consisting of 650 homes and a range of community amenities.
- Satellite offices – With the world of work permanently changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hampshire County Council has initiated a campaign advocating the benefits to London-based businesses of setting up satellite offices in the County. Business Hampshire, the economic development service of the County Council, promote increased productivity, wellbeing and shorter journey times for workers as key strengths of regional offices.
With the recent High Court dismissal of a legal challenge to “radical” planning reforms, there is greater flexibility to change Class E Commercial, Business and Service uses to office use under permitted development rights, making it easier for more satellite offices to come forward in the future.
Senior Associate Grace Mitchell and Associate Matthew Price are key contacts in Shoosmiths’ Solent planning team. In addition to working on some of the projects above, Grace and Matthew act for leading retirement providers delivering much needed facilities for the older population typically on their portfolios and S106 agreements to enable development. We also assist Dukes Education on corporate acquisitions and due diligence.