A MEON Valley farm has secured permission for a pioneering plan to create a new habitat to act as a way of capturing harmful nitrates before it get into the sea.

Whitewool Farm, near Old Winchester Hill, Warnford, can create new 7.2 hectare wetland habitat, on a tributary of the River Meon, that will remove nitrates from streams and rivers.

Nitrate nutrients have become a major issue, harming wildlife in Southampton Water and the Solent and sparking new controls that have ordered housing developers to become 'nitrate neutral'.

The farm will make money from its captured nitrates with payments from developers building new homes in south Hampshire. Wastewater from homes is one of the major sources of nitrates. The developers can buy nitrogen credit via payments to the wetland creator, 1,000-acre Whitewool Farm, a mixed farm with 400 dairy cows.

The applicants, the Butler family, proposes to use heavy machinery to flatten the valley and create a habitat which reedbeds can colonise.

Applicant Jamie Butler told the planning committee of South Downs National Park planning committee last Thursday that the scheme fitted in with the farm's environmental strategy.

However, there has been some opposition from within the national park authority, as to whether the wetland will work, especially because it is an upland chalk habitat that is usually fast-draining.

Ruth Childs, landscape officer for the national park, initially objected about remodelling the landscape. She withdrew her opposition after discussions with Natural England who reassured her about the sustainability of the proposed wetland.

Bt she told the committee she felt the wetland would not develop and it would be grassland and woodland instead. "Whilst positive they are not the rare riparian habitats we would want to see within that valley."

But the members of the committee, including Winchester city councillor Therese Evans, voted by eight to one to approve the scheme.