Changes to nutrient neutrality rules

Changes to nutrient neutrality rules

The Government is planning to change nutrient neutrality rules that currently prevent new housing being built in some environmentally sensitive areas. The Government release explains that it has put forward an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) that will allow for the delivery of more than 100,000 new homes that are currently stalled.

It is proposed to amend the Habitat Regulations to remove nutrient neutrality as a planning consideration. For readers who are interested in the detail, the amendment (to add what will be Clause 85a to the LURB) can be found at page 17 here. As is clear from the press release, the news has been widely welcomed by the major housebuilders – and, no doubt, their shareholders – but has been slammed by environmental groups.

If the amendment makes it onto the statute book, a possible casualty may be the emerging markets in pollution offset credits. These work by allowing potentially polluting schemes to go ahead as long as developers can demonstrate an equivalent or greater reduction in the relevant nutrients on other sites in the water catchment. Listeners of the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme this morning will have heard an organic beef farmer from Dorset saying that she thinks the LURB amendment has undermined the market in which she said credits to remove 1kg of nitrogen and 1kg of phosphate in perpetuity were worth £3,000 and £60,000 respectively. She said that, in her case, she was planning to replace her diminishing BPS payments by selling pollution offset credits but may not now be able to do so.

The LURB is currently at the report stage in the House of Lords and is still subject to comments and possible changes there and when it returns to the Commons. If it continues as drafted, the amended regulations may be introduced in early 2024.

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