River pollution legislation changes will allow 2,500 new homes to resume

AROUND 2,500 new homes across Cumbria should now be able to be built after the Government announced proposed changes to legislation linked to river pollution.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove today (August 29th) revealed a proposed amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which will remove nutrient neutrality requirements for new housing developments which is currently holding up 100,000 homes being built across the country – with 2,500 of them across the county.

Nicky Gordon, the Chief Executive Officer of Penrith-based Genesis Homes, has been a stern critic of the Natural England legislation which paused planning applications across 74 councils, preventing proposed housing developments which potentially increased the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus in rivers.

Chief Executive Nicky Gordon.

The relaxation of the laws has been welcomed by the Genesis Homes chief who described the legislation as a ‘major blockade to much-needed housing development’ across the country.

Nicky said: “We are extremely pleased to hear that the Government is finally taking steps to resolve the issue of nutrient neutrality which has proved a major, and wholly unnecessary, obstacle to the housing industry. 

“It has taken a ridiculous amount of time to sort something even though the house building industry has long informed Central Government right through to local authorities of its wrongful singling out of homebuilders when the contribution of the industry to river pollution is marginal.

“We now hold our breath for the finer details of the proposed changes to nutrient neutrality but we’re hopeful that some real progress is made so the 100,000 new homes currently on hold across the UK – including around 2,500 in Cumbria – because of this issue can finally start.”

Mr Gove announced the Government will double the amount of funding for Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme to £280m to allow the organisation to create bespoke plans to address pollution issues in areas impacted by river pollution.

As part of the proposed changes, homebuilders will now be consulted regarding the best ways to ensure the industry contributes to efforts to reduce nutrient neutrality.

Nicky said: “I may disagree with the existing Government on many policies as it has shown a flagrant disregard for the housing industry on numerous occasions over the years, but this announcement is something I strongly support.

“Mr Gove has taken on board the concerns of the housebuilding industry that the nutrient neutrality legislation was putting people’s lives on hold – from developers right through to families desperate to buy much-needed housing – and it is a huge relief that the industry can progress without these unnecessary delays.

“Housing developers such as Genesis Homes felt aggrieved to be so heavily penalised by the legislation when the contribution of the industry to river pollution is less than 5% – which is miniscule compared to the likes of water companies and agriculture which accounts for more than 80% combined.”

Nutrient neutrality restrictions were rolled out to Cumbria in 2022 with the River Eden Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the River Kent SAC and the River Derwent and Bassenthwaite Lake SAC the affected areas.

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