17 Oct 23 by Alice Williams
Nutrient neutrality has been a hot topic in politics for quite some time, often seen as a roadblock by developers and a vital tool by environmentalists in the fight against nutrient pollution. The government is proposing substantial amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), potentially reshaping how we consider nutrient neutrality in the planning process. These changes aim to remove nutrient neutrality as a planning requirement for housing projects, especially those with regulated wastewater treatment systems.
Nutrient neutrality legislation
This transformation is enabled by LURB’s clause 159A, empowering the Secretary of State to issue environmental regulations. As a result, the previous mandatory assessment under the EU Habitats Directive will no longer be needed.
While these changes are on the horizon, the specific implementation date remains uncertain. Parties involved in existing private credit deals may opt to stay the course, considering the potential legal costs, deposit losses, and reputational risks of backtracking.
The government intends to collaborate with larger developers to ensure a fair contribution, potentially benefiting smaller and medium-sized players. The evolving landscape of nutrient neutrality introduces an element of uncertainty. The House of Lords’ comments and potential amendments will shape the final legislation. Developers and landowners may consider securing private credit deals while awaiting clarity, offering an alternative to waiting for political outcomes.
To tackle nutrient pollution comprehensively, the government is expanding the Nutrient Mitigation Scheme and implementing Protected Site Strategies. Water companies are encouraged to explore nature-based wastewater treatment solutions alongside mandatory upgrades by 2030. Catchment permitting approaches will hold water companies accountable for wastewater plant performance.
The government’s commitment to allocate £225 million to reduce agricultural runoff, along with robust inspections, aims to minimize water pollution. The LURB amendments are set to expire in 2030, aligning with the wastewater treatment plant upgrade deadline, which should significantly reduce the need for nutrient credits.
The evolving landscape of nutrient neutrality legislation presents both challenges and opportunities for developers and landowners. While these changes aim to streamline planning processes, uncertainties persist. Private credit deals are likely to continue playing a pivotal role in nutrient pollution mitigation, offering a turnkey solution. As the government pursues strategies to combat nutrient pollution, landowners will remain essential in providing mitigation solutions if these amendments become law.
Vickery Holman works with developers and investors across the South West. To find out more, please talk to our Development Consultancy team.