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Government grants house builders a charter to pollute
The government’s plan to rip up the regulations to protect our rivers by weakening the requirements around nutrient neutrality is a victory for housebuilders but a disaster for the environment.
The nutrient neutrality rules were put in place in 2017 and designed to reduce the impact of nutrients like phosphates and nitrates from damaging protected sites and polluting our rivers. They meant local councils should not give the go-ahead to any new development that is projected to add to river nutrients, either through wastewater from new homes or run-off from building sites.
Martin Salter, policy lead at the Angling Trust, said:
“Politics is about choices and the government have chosen to side with the polluters rather than maintain vital protections for our beleaguered rivers and watercourses. Of course, if they were actually serious about their pledge to be ‘the greenest government ever’ our woefully inadequate sewage treatment works would have already been upgraded and would be more than capable of processing the additional flows from new housing schemes to a standard acceptable in a modern country.”
In making their announcement to weaken the protection of our rivers, the government has tried to mitigate the impact by offering millions in funding to farmers and housebuilders to invest in schemes to prevent pollution and improve the environment. But, whereas strong regulations place requirements on developers to comply with the law and are enforceable, this offer of funding is not guaranteed and, as the cost-of-living crisis continues, could easily be taken away in future. This funding will come from the taxpayer and will allow housebuilders to avoid their responsibility and continue to make huge profits. The polluter won’t pay, we will.
This change in government policy has come after intense lobbying from housebuilders who have used figures on the number of houses that they have not been able to build to seek to overturn the regulations. But as the ENDS Report have reported, these numbers are rough estimates. Even the House Builders Federation, who produced the numbers, admitted to the ENDS Report, “its numbers are estimations, and that to ascertain more accurate figures would be very time consuming.”
Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said:
“The housebuilders have come up with a figure on the back of a fag packet and the government has accepted it as gospel. This is no way to make policy changes. This government promised us in May, June, and July that they would not lower environmental protections. Now they have done exactly that.”
According to Green Agri Land Ltd, a nutrient mitigation company who works with housebuilders, plans are already in place to mitigate pollution for approximately 70,000 homes.
“This shows the regulations were not too onerous but were working, and housebuilders were responding by taking measures to tackle the pollution impacts of their developments. This poorly thought out ‘charter to pollute’ announcement will sweep away the progress being made.”