Rebuttal to Government Lords briefing

September 12, 2023

TheGovernment said: ‘The Government estimates that around 16,500 homes per year arecurrently affected by nutrient neutrality rules, which amounts to over 100,000homes by the end of the decade.’

The Truth: The Government is throwing numbers about with noconsistency.  They previously cited that the total amount stalled nowis 140,000 with another 41,000 every year. (as per the HBF.)

 James Stevens of the HBF has told us that 18 months agothere were actually only 40,000 of the 145,000 homes at advanced (ReservedMatters or beyond) stages of planning. This does not account for any homes thatwill have got mitigation and thus progressed to full planning permission. Ifnutrient neutrality was removed tomorrow, there would be far fewer than 145,000homes to move forward through planning. 

The Government is now saying that atotal of 100,000 are to be impacted by nutrient neutrality between now and2030, therefore suggesting that only 17,500 are currently stalled.  

 Which of these estimates is close tothe truth?   



The Government said: 'We estimate that this will lead to significant improvements –around a 69% reduction in phosphorus loads and around a 57% reduction innitrogen loads in total from wastewater treatment works, although this willvary between individual catchments.'


The Truth: It is not clear how these numbers have been derived. To work outthe actual impact on nitrogen and phosphorus loads from wastewater treatmentworks upgrades requires an extensive analysis using monitoring data from watercompanies that is not always available. The reduction in phosphorus inputs fromwastewater are also required as part of targets in the Environment Act whichare aimed at tackling the already impacted water quality baseline. There hasalso been no analysis of whether the wastewater treatment works upgradesrequired through the LURB will actually result in a significant improvement tothis baseline and thus remove the need for nutrient mitigation in the future.The government is intentionally muddying the waters between these two requirements.

The Government said: Is the Government backtracking on its commitments to protect theenvironment? No. The changes we are making through this package will not leadto regression in environmental outcomes and will in fact improve the conditionof the affected Habitats Sites. ‘


The Truth: Every environmental charity, The Office for EnvironmentalProtection and even government insiders have come out to confirm that this willhave a negative impact on the environment and does amount to a regression inenvironmental protection.

The total £280m pledged by the Government will pay for < 15% of themitigation required for the expected housing development between now and 2030.£140m of this is money unfunded (the HBF have still not worked out howhousebuilders will contribute to a voluntary scheme to cover this). Thereforeit is impossible to see how there will not be a deterioration in environmentaloutcomes as a consequence of the Government’s proposal. 


The Government said: 'It is however clear from listening to the concerns of localcommunities, local authorities and housebuilders that while a positivedevelopment, mitigation schemes are moving too slowly, with no guarantee thatdemand can be met imminently. The existing approach also does not take accountof the fact that new homes will not contribute any additional nutrient outflowuntil they are not just built but occupied.'

The Truth: The Government has never done a survey of mitigation providers toassess the supply pipeline. The mitigation sector has identified a pipeline ofat least 70,000 homes worth of mitigation. The Government has options on thetable to move the mitigation requirement to being a pre-occupancy planningcondition, thereby allowing lots of housing to progress and allowing more timefor mitigation to be secured. The government is killing the only nationalNatural Capital market we have.   


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