Lords vote against Gove's plans to scrap EU nutrient neutrality laws

Michael Gove’s recently announced plans to replace EU nutrient neutrality laws with new measures to unlock housebuilding were blocked by the House of Lords following a debate held on Wednesday (13th September).

The members voted 156 and 203 against Amendment 247YYA — which would allow the government to amend laws concerned with the environment, planning or development operations with regard to the effect of nutrients in water.

They also rejected Amendment 247YYA — which provides that certain authorising bodies must assume that nutrients in wastewater from proposed developments will not adversely affect habitats sites — after members voted 161 in favour and 192 against.

In voting against these two amendments, members of the Lords expressed concerns that the changes would allow the government to revoke or amend existing laws that ensure 'nutrient neutrality' in water waste from building developments.

In August, the government announced plans to get rid of legacy EU laws on nutrient neutrality and enable the delivery of over 100,000 new homes between now and 2030, as it claimed that the nutrient contribution being made by the construction of new homes is ‘very small’.

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the National Federation of Builders (NFB), commented: “The current policy never targeted polluters and despite no new homes being built, some rivers saw pollution worsen. 

“The government were therefore correct in changing direction and we are frustrated that instead of advancing the proposal — for example, requesting emergency planning powers for water companies to get infrastructure upgrades started, a timeline for river clean-up projects to begin, or a farming strategy working group — commentators and politicians either misinformed the public as to how the existing policy works, or played politics with a serious issue.

“If people truly want cleaner rivers, targeting non-polluters and offsetting householder waste isn’t the solution.”

Neal Moy, managing director of development finance at Paragon Bank, added: “It’s disappointing, but expected, that no positive action was taken on the nutrient neutrality rules.

"These rules have certainly slowed developments in recent years, impacting the delivery of homes, so any plans to reform the rules would have been welcomed.

"Nutrients entering our rivers are obviously a problem, but the contribution made by new homes is very small compared with that from other sources such as industry, agriculture and existing housing stock.

“However, nutrient neutrality is just one area impacting the delivery of homes.

"We need a coherent, long-term housing plan to outline clear deliverables, such as planning reform, to unlock the housebuilding sector.” 


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