23 June 2022
The construction of up to 120,000 new homes has been halted in England due to ‘nutrient neutrality’ laws.
An environmental protection rule requiring that new houses do not pollute surrounding wetlands, rivers and nature reserves has stopped development across a significant portion of England in its tracks.
The Home Builders Federation estimates that house building has been delayed in 74 local authority areas. Already, developers in 32 local authorities have been asked to demonstrate that they are causing no additional pollution to protected sites by the government’s conservation watchdog, Natural England.
The measures are causing problems for housebuilders who claim it could cost developers up to £5,000 per home, possibly delaying the construction of affordable and council housing.
New homes must now be ‘nutrient neutral’, meaning that they don’t add damaging nitrates or phosphates to river catchments and protected areas. This is to mitigate pollution that depletes oxygen in water, killing fish and harming other aquatic life.
Most wetland pollution is caused by farming and discharge from sewage works, but rainwater running off roads and new developments can also add to the pollution.
In locations close to special areas of conservation (SACs), planning authorities cannot approve new applications for homes until developers demonstrate they are not adding to this kind of pollution.
Key parts of the country that are affected include protected parts of Cumbria, Cornwall and Norfolk.
Here is an instance where we must think carefully about how to balance the protection of our environment and the building of new, affordable homes in the UK, especially if we are to meet the ambitious target of 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.