Following complaints that nutrient neutrality rules have been stalling housebuilding (an issue that Advantage wrote about last week) the government has outlined new assistance for developers and councils.
Housing Today reported that:
“The government has unveiled a package of measures designed to help developers and councils hit by the nutrient pollution crisis currently holding up plans for more than 100,000 homes.
“In a joint statement from the environment and levelling up departments (Defra and DLUHC), the government said it will legislate to force water companies to upgrade water treatment works by 2030, and roll out a national nutrient pollution mitigation programme to enable councils to grant planning permissions in affected areas.”
Developers will be able to purchase ‘nutrient credits’
The government announced that the measures will “not only tackle the long-term issue of nutrient pollution by significantly reducing pollution from existing homes in sensitive areas. Developers will be able to purchase ‘nutrient credits’ which will discharge the requirements to provide mitigation.”
Natural England will accredit mitigation delivered through the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, enabling Local Planning Authorities to grant planning permission for developments which have secured the necessary nutrient credits. This will ensure developers have a streamlined way to mitigate nutrient pollution, allowing planned building to continue and creating new habitats across the country.
Priority will be given to smaller builders, who are most affected
The Local Government Chronicle said that Natural England will deliver the scheme through an ‘accelerator unit’, with support from Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, the Environment Agency and Homes England.
The scheme will be open to all developers, with priority given to smaller builders who are most affected. Developers will also be able to continue to put their own mitigation schemes in place, with Natural England committing to working in partnership with existing projects.
When enough credits have been accrued, local authorities can grant permission for developments, and Natural England said this would
“support the delivery of the tens of thousands of homes currently in the planning system, by significantly reducing the cost of mitigation requirements”.
Providing support to facilitate building new homes while protecting lakes and rivers
Natural England chair Tony Juniper said:
“The duty on water companies and the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme mark significant steps forward, and will help join up the various approaches to improving water quality and bring about multiple other benefits.
“They will provide the tools needed to help planning authorities, developers and water and land managers to both build new homes and support the healthy rivers and lakes that are vital for restoring nature and creating beautiful places for everyone to enjoy.”
The government announcement said that Defra and DLUHC would add funding to the scheme, but did not say how much. DLUHC has already provided an initial £100,000 (per catchment) package of support for planning authorities.