Nutrient neutrality mitigation scheme proposed

Developers will be able to purchase ‘nutrient credits’ that will allow local planning authorities to grant planning permission where it previously may have been refused.

It was reported earlier this year that an environmental protection rule requiring new houses to not pollute surrounding wetlands was severely impacting development across vast swathes of England.

The Federation of Master Builder’s (FMB) found that 17,000 homes a year were impacted by development bans as a result of the Government’s nutrient neutrality rules. They expressed major concern claiming that the rules were having a “chilling effect on an industry already facing many hurdles to build”.

In response to concerns, Natural England has established a Nutrient Mitigation Scheme to support investment in new habitats that will ‘soak up’ impacts of unavoidable nutrient pollution. Under the scheme, which is due to open in Autumn, developers will be able to purchase ‘nutrient credits’ that will offset the requirements to provide mitigation. 

The objective of the strategic mitigation scheme is to allow developers the opportunity to buy the benefit of off-site mitigation works from Natural England in order to provide information to show that proposed developments have addressed nutrient pollution issues under the Habitats Regulations.

Currently, new homes are required to be ‘nutrient neutral’ so as not to pollute nearby water sources. This means they shouldn’t add damaging nitrates or phosphates to river catchments and protected areas.

This has been particularly challenging for developments in locations close to special areas of conservation (SACs) where planning authorities cannot approve new applications for homes until developers demonstrate they are not adding to this pollution.

Natural England will accredit mitigation delivered through the scheme which will enable local planning authorities to grant planning permission to projects that have acquired the necessary credits.

FMB Chief Executive, Brian Berry, welcomed the Government’s announcement of the mitigation scheme saying: “The Government has made the right decision to address industry concerns about the impact of nutrient neutrality which was halting much needed new housing development.”

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