Could changes to nutrient neutrality rules see more houses built?
Wed 06 Sep 2023
"It appears that the nutrient neutrality challenge won’t disappear, but will instead take a different form."
Andrew Haigh, commercial surveyor, divisional partner, Norwich
In March 2022, all Norfolk councils received a letter from Natural England concerning nutrient pollution in the River Wensum and The Broads.
The potential for adverse impacts related to nutrient pollution is a result of new developments, which involve overnight accommodation draining into these areas. Developments in question include new homes, student accommodation and care homes. As a consequence, no planning decisions have been able to be granted until this is resolved.
The affected Norfolk councils have been working for over a year to identify environmental schemes that will mitigate the additional phosphorus or nitrogen created by these new developments.
This would include constructing new wetlands; change of land use; conversion of septic tanks to package treatment plants; or retrofitting water systems in local authority housing accommodation (as being undertaken by Norwich City Council).
Large developers have been able to offer potential ‘on-site’ solutions or fund others. For example, a consortium of three developers with permission to build houses to the north of Norwich are upgrading a sewerage treatment plant.
Since small developers cannot offer such solutions, the councils have set up a joint venture company called Norfolk Environmental Credits which will sell ‘credits’ to developers, enabling them to invest in initiatives aimed at achieving neutrality.
However, last week saw a statement from Michael Gove revealing his intention to eliminate the credit scheme in order to facilitate the creation of 100,000 new homes annually. Under new rules, Natural England will take responsibility for mitigating any new pollution.
Gove said: “The good thing is not only will we be getting more than 100,000 new homes, but we will be spending hundreds of millions extra in making sure we can improve the quality of our rivers.”
The means by which this goal will be accomplished, the timeline involved, and funding sources remain uncertain. It appears that the nutrient neutrality challenge won’t disappear, but will instead take a different form.
Given the shortage of housing in Norfolk, the prospect of introducing more new homes is certainly positive. Nonetheless, we are eager to observe how the necessary mitigation measures will be effectively implemented.
For more information, contact Andrew Haigh on 01603 598261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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