Rex wrestles with nutrient neutrality
Application for converted double decker bus approved
Back in 2020, Jo Entwistle had a crazy idea: to create a luxury holiday let out of a double decker bus. So she found a bus and set about transforming it.
As you can see, Rex needed a lot of TLC to restore him - never mind turn him into a glamorous bolthole. Nonetheless, Jo and her family persevered with the conversion project at their Somerset smallholding and triumphed. Their struggle was even immortalised on television in 2020 when Rex starred in an episode of Quick Little Builds.
It turned out, however, achieving planning permission turned out to the greatest challenge this bus had to face. The application was for the change of use of land for the siting of the bus to provide holiday accommodation. There were a number of complications:
The adjacent farmhouse is Grade II Listed
Parts of the site are within Flood Zones 2 & 3
Construction of a new access
But the greatest challenge of all was that the site is within the Somerset Levels and Moors Catchment Area where proposals for new residential development (including tourist accommodation) have to achieve nutrient neutrality.
There are currently high levels of phosphates in Somerset and this is seriously impacting biodiversity on the Levels and elsewhere. Following the now infamous Dutch N court judgement, planning applications for new accommodation can't be granted unless applicants can show that there would be no increase in phosphates associated with the scheme.
Map showing affected area: Somerset Levels and Moors Catchment Area
In practice, what this means is that applicants must devise a strategy to ensure nutrient neutrality. This is not currently possible for many sites - particularly those that must connect to mains sewers. There are some sites, however, where it is possible to achieve neutrality.
Rex got lucky.
We were able, with the help of a specialist ecologist, Graeme Down of David Archer Associates, to design a strategy to offset the increase in phosphates associated with the use of the bus by guests. The bus does connect to the mains sewer, but the change of use of part of the land and the provision of a large wildflower meadow meant that Natural England and South Somerset District Council were happy to approve the application.
Ryeland sheep at the farm