Government set to scrap 'defective' EU nutrient neutrality laws to boost housebuilding

The government has announced plans to get rid of legacy EU laws on nutrient neutrality to enable the delivery of over 100,000 new homes between now and 2030.

While it claimed that nutrient contribution being made by the construction of new homes is “very small” — the government confirmed its intentions to replace the previous laws with new measures to mitigate the effects of the construction on the environment. 

This is said to be carried out through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill — currently in the House of Lords — as well as several new environmental measures to tackle pollution at source and restore habitats.

This will include doubling its investment in the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme to £280m, and new laws to drive significant investment from water companies to upgrade wastewater treatment works by 2030.

In addition, the government has committed to further work on developing protected sites strategies in the catchments most impacted by nutrient neutrality and with the most acute housing pressures.

It aims to conduct at least 4,000 inspections on farms each year to make sure that slurry and other sources of nutrients are being handled in a way that minimises pollution of the water environment. 

The government will also be giving out £200m worth of grants for improved slurry storage infrastructure and precision spreading equipment to reduce nutrient runoff from farms.

Michael Gove, secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, commented: “We are committed to building the homes this country needs and to enhancing our environment, but the way EU rules have been applied has held us back.

“Protecting the environment is paramount, which is why the measures we’re announcing today (29th August) will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways while still building the much-needed homes this country needs.”

Lawrence Turner, director at Boyer, added: “While it's important to acknowledge the environmental issue of river nutrient levels, the small contribution from new housing developments is wildly disproportionate to the current nutrient neutrality laws. 

“Today’s announcement will unlock the delivery of new homes, many of which have already been consented by local authorities.

“This will hopefully enable new homes to be constructed without the need for developers to fallow large swathes of farmland that takes valuable agricultural land out of production.”

The Planning and Refurb Issue of the B&C Magazine takes an in-depth look at the issues surrounding nutrient neutrality, and the progress made so far in mitigating these challenges. Read the full feature here.

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