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Around 120,000 Homes Delayed due to Nutrient Neutrality Problems

3 min

Nutrient Neutrality
Image Credit: Benjamin Elliott, Unsplash
The Home Builders Federation estimates that around 120,000 homes nationally are being delayed because of the nutrient neutrality problem. Housing Industry Leaders explores how we can overcome this.

A new report by Lichfields, prepared on behalf of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), questions the amount of nutrient-related pollution that Natural England estimates is generated by new housing developments and calls for local authorities to amend their nutrient calculators to ensure their projections accurately reflect local household sizes.

It has been revealed through this that most homes (18,766) are concentrated in the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast catchment of the north of England, but it is a UK-wide issue.

Local Authorities Must Demonstrate Nutrient Neutrality Before Starting Building

Nutrient neutrality is currently one of the most significant issues facing the home building industry following the ‘Dutch N’ court ruling.

Due to this, Natural England decided to revise its guidance to local authorities advising them to undertake an appropriate assessment of all applications for housing development to guard against nutrient-related pollution.

The Homes Builders Federation has said that now, new housing schemes across large parts of 74 local authorities are having to demonstrate nutrient neutrality before building can commence or resume. It has been found that the result of this is that an estimated 120,000 new homes are now delayed.

It Is Crucial That The Water Quality Issue Is Addressed

Natural England’s nutrient neutrality advice to local authorities includes an assumption that each new home will increase the population in the catchment by 2.4 persons.

Gareth Williams, Senior Director at Lichfields said: “The increasing number of local authorities now affected by this issue is having a major impact on delivery of new homes in England and Wales.

“The calculator methodology currently proposed by Natural England has two major failings: firstly: it fails to recognise that a significant proportion of these new homes are to meet the requirement of existing residents so have no impact on overall population and secondly; they then apply an average household size that overestimates future population.”

It is important that the issue of water quality is addressed but the response must target the primary causes and be proportionate in its approach.

To overcome the nutrient neutrality problem, communities must discover a more sustainable way forward. One of these ways could be sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS). Implementing SuDS can also be used as an amenity means that we can mitigate the negative impact on the environment and create a positive environment instead.

Examples of SuDS include creating wetlands, grasslands or woodlands that utilise a natural process of removing the nutrients from the water. From this, SuDS create cleaner and greener developments, reduce flooding, limit installation and future maintenance costs, and ease pressure on the UK’s struggling infrastructure.

Sustainable Housing Is Needed To Tackle The Housing Crisis

Water environment experts generally follow a three-stage process, which begins with identifying risks and requirements. This is then followed by calculating the net increase of Total Nitrogen and Total Phosphorus. Finally, the water environment experts will assess the available mitigation measures.

HBF’s Director for Cities, James Stevens, said: “The homebuilding industry is committed to protecting the natural environment, but it is clear that the current approach does not reflect the minor contribution of housing development to the issue.

“We are urging the Government to work with us to agree on a proportionate and sustainable solution to ensure housebuilding can resume in the areas concerned.”

Providing desperately needed new homes delivers significant social and economic benefits for new and existing communities and solutions need to be found.

It is essential going forward that developers and planning applicants demonstrate that they can deliver water neutrality. Sustainable solutions are needed to bring forward deliverable local plans at a time where seeing sustainable housing is needed the most to tackle the housing crisis.