Breaking: Gove to rip up nutrient neutrality

Watch our interview – Gabriel Connor-Streich from Greenshank Environmental tells ffinlo Costain how Michael Gove’s plans to ditch nutrient neutrality will affect the natural capital market in England.

The Guardian reports – MICHAEL Gove is planning to rip up water pollution rules that builders have blamed for exacerbating England’s housing crisis but which environmental groups say are essential for protecting the country’s rivers.

The housing secretary, alongside Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, will announce the move today (Tuesday 29th August), according to several people briefed on the plans, alongside hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of extra funding to mitigate the potential impact on England’s waterways.

The decision will spark anger among many, who say it will further add to water pollution, as water companies are already dumping raw sewage into rivers and seas. Political advisers say water pollution has already become a major political issue in coastal areas, and has the potential to cost the Conservatives important seats at the next election.

However, it will please major developers, who say the rules are being applied so strictly that they are unable to build new homes in large parts of England. Building industry projections say housebuilding in England is forecast soon to fall below levels not seen since the second world war.

Nutrient neutrality rules were put in place in 2017 when the UK was still a member of the EU. They say that in dozens of protected areas across England, local authorities should not give the go-ahead to any new development that is projected to add to river nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates, either through wastewater from new homes or run-off from building sites.

Developers, however, say they are being enforced by Natural England in such a strict way that they have been forced to put as many as 120,000 new homes on hold, and argue that farmland is a far bigger contributor to the pollution in question.

Under the existing rules, builders have to mitigate new nutrient loads caused by new populations in housing either onsite or elsewhere within the same catchment. They can do this by investing in new wetlands or by creating buffer zones along rivers and other watercourses. Builders have complained that doing so was costly and time-consuming.

Shaun Spiers, head of Green Alliance, said: “It’s hard to see how the law can be enforced without nutrient neutrality. Is the government proposing more pollution or that someone else (other than the housebuilders) pays for it? The trouble is, housebuilders always oppose proper regulation if they think they can get away with it, and governments are so desperate for more housing (and so unwilling to invest in it themselves) that they always believe them.”

Read the full article in The Guardian


Support a practical, investable and inclusive narrative for land use.

Sign-up to receive our newsletter

Newsletter Signup
Contribute for just £2.50 per week
Skip to content