Government plan for 100,000 new homes by relaxing EU law
A previous environmental restriction will be loosened so developers have more freedom to build
On the 29 August 2023 the government announced a plan to build an extra 100,000 new homes by 2030 which they predict will deliver an £18 billion boost to the UK economy.
The UK currently has the EU law on nutrient neutrality stopping developers from building in certain areas due to extra nutrients entering and possibly polluting Britain’s waterways.
62 councils covering protected areas of England do not currently allow new developments unless they are ‘nutrient neutral’, and builders must prove they will not pollute rivers with new developments.
The current government dispute the level of potential pollution and are of the opinion that the scale of extra nutrients entering the waterways will be ‘very small.’ They have assured that an extra £280 million investment will be made into the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme run by Natural England to monitor any additional nutrient discharge.
It will be expected that larger developers will contribute to this scheme over the upcoming years. This is currently being discussed with the Home Builders Federation.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP said, ‘We are committed to building the homes this country needs and to enhancing our environment. The way EU rules have been applied has held us back. These changes will provide a multi-billion pound boost for the UK economy and see us build more than 100,000 new homes. Protecting the environment is paramount which is why the measures we’re announcing today will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways whilst still building the much-needed homes this country needs. We will work closely with environmental agencies and councils as we deliver these changes.’
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has reassured that the scheme is not a invitation for developers to pollute. ‘It will provide an £18 billion boost to our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs. We’re able to do this because previously it was a disproportionate and poorly targeted old EU ruling that blocked these homes. Thankfully we can now reverse that, and alongside that we are investing hundreds of millions of pounds to continue protecting and enhancing our precious natural environment,’ he has said.
The changes are being proposed via an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is presently going through the House of Lords. As a result, the Government says it could see additional homes being constructed in a matter of months.
The plan is not without its critics. ‘In May, June and July, the Government made promises to the British people and to Parliament that they would not lower environmental protections or standards. But just a few weeks later they are planning to do precisely the opposite. They lied – this is a disgraceful move which undermines public trust in this Government,’ said Craig Bennett, Chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Tim Farron said: ‘Not content with the levels of pollution in our rivers already, scrapping nutrient neutrality is a disgraceful act from the government.’ He added ‘If ministers actually cared about our rivers they would clean them up rather than scrapping the few rules in place that protect them.’
Since 2017, rules to offset excess nutrients have had an impact on housing developments but have not applied to farms which produce similar nutrient pollution via slurry run-off.
To offset the excess nutrients and ensure further protection for the UK’s waterways, the Government has pledged to expand the number of protected sites, increase farm inspections to prevent slurry pollution, and invest £200m in slurry storage.
The government plans to invest £25m to drive innovation to help farmers manage plant and soil nutrients. This will increase resilience, reduce input costs and improve productivity as part of a more circular economy for nutrients. And this year they plan to consult on modernising fertiliser product standards to drive increased use of organic and recycled nutrients.