Government's plan to aid housing development by reducing nutrient neutrality requirements

    Government's plan to aid housing development by reducing nutrient neutrality requirements

    Steve Farnham, Partner in Commercial Property and Rural Business, Land and Agriculture discusses the impact of the government's recent update to the nutrient neutrality calculators in an attempt to tackle water pollution.

    On 24th May 2024, the government set out measures to tackle pollution at source and enable the construction of thousands of homes, as it publishes a list of over 140 wastewater treatment works legally required to be upgraded in areas affected by nutrient neutrality advice.

    For the last four years, our developer clients have been frustrated by the delays in granting planning permission on new sites because of the guidance produced by Natural England to show that new homes they are looking to build are nitrate and phosphate neutral, despite the fact that the problems have (largely) been caused by years of lack of investment by water companies. This has resulted in developers either having to take measures to acquire additional land to take out of farming, connect to private Package Treatment Plats, upgrade existing septic tanks, purchase credits or (for smaller developments) to plant trees.

    Defra has given updated guidance which now includes a legal obligation on the Water authorities to upgrade 140 waste water treatment plants. This will “reduce the mitigation requirements for new homes by ensuring that water companies meet stringent nutrient removal standards”. In addition, the measures will remove completely the requirement to show that Phosphate levels from new developments in the in the Poole Harbour catchment area are neutral, (although the requirement for nitrate neutrality will remain – at reduced level.)

    This updated guidance has been long awaited and is welcome, although it will remain to be seen how much practical difference the updated calculator will make to opening up the new homes that are needed.

    You can read the full government article here - Housebuilding supported as government tackles water pollution at source - GOV.UK

    For advice on property development and how this update may affect your plans, please get in touch to discuss.


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