Housebuilders welcome planned river-pollution rule-change

Housebuilders have given a warm welcome to government plans to scrap regulations aimed at mitigating river pollution in a move ministers said could allow thousands more homes to be built in the next decade.

An amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill repealing EU-era requirements for nutrient neutrality on new residential developments will allow 100,000 more homes to be built by 2030, according to the government.

A development is nutrient neutral if it does not release harmful substances such as phosphates and nitrates into surrounding waterways, or it can offset the local impact of doing so.

These pollutants can seep into rivers through construction site run-off, and the sewage requirements of new homes can overwhelm existing water treatment systems.

Since 2019, Natural England has issued advice to 74 local planning authorities around nutrient neutrality, which has prevented or delayed the delivery of housing in these areas.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) estimates these constraints have delayed the construction of around 150,000 homes.

HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “With some areas having been blighted for four years, the prospect of a swift resolution will be much-needed good news for companies on the verge of going out of business, their employees and for households most affected by housing affordability pressures.”

The government has touted the move as a step towards the housing secretary’s target of delivering one million homes during this parliamentary session.

Grayaham Tucker, group managing director of Devon-based housebuilder Cavanna Homes, said: “For Cavanna Homes, like other SME builders, the rules as they stand have threatened the viability of our business and prevented the construction of much-needed quality, energy-efficient housing in the South West.”

The new policy was announced alongside a doubling of government investment in Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme to £280m.

The government announced that it is working with the HBF to agree on what contribution large housebuilders should make to the scheme.

Environmentalists have criticised the move to scrap the regulations as increasing the risk of water pollution and threatening wildlife.

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