Letter to Rishi Sunak

July 20, 2023

The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street



20 July 2023

Dear Prime Minister,

Recent briefings suggest that the Government is mounting a fresh attack on nutrient neutrality. As stakeholders engaged in solving the nutrient neutrality crisis, we are writing to tell you why these proposals are not the right approach.  

We recognise the impact that nutrient neutrality has had on the house building sector, but the current approach is working. We demonstrate below that it is delivering tangible economic and environmental benefits while freeing up housing delivery. Trying to scrap nutrient neutrality would only serve to make the situation worse, for the following reasons:

  1. It will cause further delays to housing delivery: a lose-lose for housebuilders and the environment.
  2. The mitigation market is far more advanced than you may realise: over 70,000 homes have solutions in place or in the pipeline.
  3. It will lead to a public outcry, destroying the Government’s own credibility on environmental issues.
  4. Nutrient neutrality is not the reason housebuilding is stalling.

Lose-lose for house builders and the environment

Using the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) to “forward count” reductions in nutrient pollution due to improved wastewater treatment is not compatible with the Habitats Regulations. Attempting a ‘quick fix’ for house builders at the expense of the environment will become mired in court cases and simultaneously deter investment in nutrient mitigation. House builders will be left with no way through the nutrient neutrality crisis.

A huge amount of work has been done to create a nutrient mitigation market within three years. The nature-based mitigation solutions this market is now delivering are:

  1. Facilitating sustainable growth by reducing the environmental impact of development.
  2. Creating additional environmental benefits such as biodiversity improvements, natural flood management and water resources management.
  3. Paving the way for future nature markets to route private finance into nature recovery.
  4. Improving access to blue-green infrastructure to the benefit of public health.

To remove nutrient neutrality now is to neglect these benefits. It is to neglect a huge drive by Government to address nutrient neutrality the right way, enabling new housing while protecting the environment: a win-win.    

Mitigation markets benefit house builders and the environment

A huge amount of public money has been spent producing new policies and guidance to aid the response to nutrient neutrality. We know that at least £5.3m in public funds has been spent on consultancy services and nutrient trading platform pilot projects.

The Government response to nutrient neutrality has also expended a huge amount of resource at Natural England, the Environment Agency and Defra. In Appendix 1 we list some of the policy papers, position statements and guidance that will have resulted in considerable public spending on public sector staff time.

Government has also committed significant budget allocations as part of their response:

  • Allocation of £7.4m for Local Planning Authorities to recruit Nutrients Officers.
  • Allocation of £30m to Natural England to fund the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme.
  • Allocation of £100m to Local Mitigation Schemes in the 2023 Spring Budget.

This allocation of funding has instilled confidence in the nutrient mitigation market, resulting in thousands of homes worth of mitigation being brought forward – as shown in the table below.



A host of companies are now operating to bring nutrient mitigation schemes to market across all the catchments with development stalled due to nutrient neutrality. Vague announcements on plans to scrap nutrient neutrality will only deter mitigation from being brought forward.

The Government will be undermining its own credibility

The protection of our water environment has never been higher on the public agenda. Nutrient neutrality is a result of years of inaction on water pollution; a recognition that we cannot allow the continued deterioration of precious environmental resources. At a time when people are falling ill from swimming in water polluted with raw sewage while water companies pay dividends to foreign owners, there is a clarion call for action to restore our environment.

This Government has given very clear signals that nutrient neutrality is now part of environmental policy. It has been referenced in the Environmental Improvement Plan; has had funding allocated in the 2023 Spring Budget; and is referenced in the Nature Markets Framework as a key market from which other nature markets can learn. Six months ago you, the Prime Minister, pledged to halve nutrient pollution. A U-turn would destroy your credibility and set a damaging precedent for the UK’s position on nature markets.

This is not the reason housebuilding is stalling

The Home Builders Federation recently wrote to you explaining that the main barrier to housing delivery is the planning process, exacerbated by other factors such as high costs, skill shortages and interest rates. Nutrient mitigation is already freeing up delivery of thousands of homes. Home builders of all sizes have purchased nutrient mitigation and the costs have been accepted in the market as viable. Developers are budgeting for these costs and the costs will only drop as mitigation supply increases. Economic development and environmental protections do not need to be trade-offs in a zero-sum game.  

A plan of action to solve the nutrient neutrality crisis, the right way

The economic impact of nutrient neutrality stems from a historic lack of clear leadership on the issue. The best resolution is the fastest resolution, which is also an environmental resolution. We request the Government’s support to resolve the nutrient neutrality crisis through the following three steps:

  1. A swift, unequivocal commitment from Government to an environmental approach to resolving nutrient neutrality, drawing on the significant progress already made.  This will solidify confidence in the markets and the supply of solutions will continue to flow.
  2. Working with Natural England to streamline the process of approving mitigation schemes, providing clear guidance to mitigation providers on what is and isn’t acceptable.
  3. Working with Local Planning Authorities to develop a legal framework for securing mitigation schemes, learning from successes in Somerset Council, Partnership for South Hampshire and Herefordshire Council.

We implore you not to turn your back on three years of progress that will not only help tackle nutrient neutrality, but also the wider issue of pollution in our protected waters.      

The signatories to this letter are committed to working together to resolve the nutrient neutrality crisis, the right way.


Yours sincerely,

Dr Gabriel Connor-Streich  

Greenshank Environmental Limited  


Steve Godfrey  

Green Agri Land Limited



Wildlife and Countryside Link  

Woodlands Trust

The National Trust

CPRE, The countryside charity

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

Institution of Royal Engineers  

Rewilding Britian

People’s Trust for Endangered Species

British Ecological Society

Bat Conservation Trust  

Campaign for National Parks

Nature Friendly Farming Network

Kent Wildlife Trust

Eden Rivers Trust

Real Wild Estates Ltd

Five Rivers Limited

Tony Langridge Consulting Limited

Water Briefing

Andrews Wildlife Consultants Ltd

Water Design Engineers Limited

Bowler Oakfield Estates Limited

Lloyd Bore Limited

Doddington Farms LLP  

Geo‑Environmental Services Limited

Environmental Farmers Group

Frog Environmental

Meon Springs Limited

Environmental Trading Platform Limited

Galingale Limited

Nutrient Neutral Ltd

Tellus Limited

PO4 Ltd

K.S. Coles Farms

Enviren Ltd

Heaton Farms Ltd

Roke Manor Limited


Kim Connor Streich

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BNG Habitat Banks

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