County Durham land marketed with option to gain nitrate offsetting credits

GSC GRAYS are marketing 220 acres of productive arable farm land in County Durham, including the ability to gain 1800 nitrate credits valued at £1,825 each.

Eldon Moor farm is available as a whole or as two lots at a guide price of £1,910,000. There is an additional opportunity for the land to be used for nitrate offsetting as it falls within the Tees Valley catchment.

The estate agency says that nutrient neutrality has recently become mandatory in some catchments in the North of England including the River Tees and buyers may be able to consider arable reversion to assist with nitrate offsetting amounting to 1800 nitrate credits.

Nitrate offsetting could be delivered by land use or management changes that reduce the nutrients entering a watercourse, for example, through wetland creation, woodland planting or arable reversion.

John Coleman, Head of Farm Sales, GSC Grays said “Our approach to this has been taken following the recent auction of credits by Natural England in relation to their Nutrient Mitigation Scheme in the River Tees Catchment Area.”

This is an extension of a £3.9 million scheme, launched by Environment Minister Rebecca Pow and Natural England Chair Tony Juniper in September 2020, that aims to reduce harmful nitrates and aid wildlife recovery.

At the time, policymakers said that they anticipated seeing similar measures rolled out across the country. The 2020 scheme was in response to a stalled house-building programme in the Solent area due to concerns that nitrates were causing a range of negative environmental effects. These included excessive growth of green algae which smothers and damages rare habitats and wildlife.

Government funding was used to set up an online ‘nitrate trading’ auction platform. Through this, housing developers were able to buy credits to create new habitats to prevent harmful levels of nitrates from new housing from reaching the Solent’s rare wildlife and habitats.

The success of the Solent scheme has encouraged an extension of the approach.

Mr Coleman sees the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme in the River Tees Catchment Area as an investment opportunity. He said “Natural England have invested in land which they have calculated will provide nutrient off-setting for up to 1600 homes in the Tees Catchment Area.

“They assessed the value of their nitrate credits by determining the cost of delivering the mitigation scheme along with monitoring and maintenance of that scheme.

“Their credits are to be applied for in rounds, the first one being last month with two more in July and October. In the first round of application the cost of one credit was set at £1,825 each.”

Mr Coleman explained that “This approach by Natural England has created focus in the private sector, but there has as yet been no open market assessment and trading to establish value. Credits can be worked out by using the Natural England calculator [and this] gives us an indication of the number of credits which might be available.”

A credit calculator relating to Tees Catchment Area Scheme can be found on the Natural England website.

Britain’s market place for natural capital is in early development, and as we have reported today, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission have identified a number of areas that need attention in order to help ensure that market ambitions can be realised.

Mr Coleman said, “This is an emerging market, and it will be interesting to see what value the market puts on this opportunity especially in light of the limited number of credits, recently auctioned by Natural England at £1,825 per credit, and for which I understand there was significant demand.”

Property details can be found here.

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