New research shows residents of new homes produce under 1% of nutrient levels in rivers – yet 150k new homes remain blocked

27 Nov, 2023

New research shows residents of new homes produce under 1% of nutrient levels in rivers – yet 150k new homes remain blocked

Four-year political failure to tackle Natural England ban goes on while main polluters remain unaffected by policy or regulation

New research published by Brookbanks and the Home Builders Federation starkly illustrates the minimal contribution made by residents of new homes towards nutrient levels in rivers, highlighting the absurdity of the approach taken by Natural England to ban new build housing across swathes of the country.

150,000 new homes currently remain on hold amidst the country’s deepening and acute housing crisis while new investment in housing delivery plummets.

The research shows that the occupancy of new homes accounts for just 0.29% of total nitrogen emissions each year and 0.73% of total phosphorus. (nitrogen and phosphorus make up ‘nutrients’).

The calculation is based on an assessment of the nutrients generated by the occupants of all new homes built in a year, assuming an average of 230,000 new homes are built each year - the average for the last three years. It underlines the disproportionate effect of Natural England’s advice, which has resulted in a moratorium on new house building across 74 Local Authority areas.

The research also puts nutrient output from residential properties in the context of agricultural activities which is responsible for around 70% of the nitrogen that finds its ways into rivers and streams. Brookbanks find that each dairy cow in affected areas produces Nitrogen discharges equivalent to 29 homes while each sheep is responsible for the same amount of Nitrogen as three family homes.

The report shows that agriculture accounts for 70% of the nitrogen released into our rivers, with the existing housing/population contributing 30% through discharges into the sewerage system (new housing would contribute 0.29% of this figure); whilst for phosphates, agriculture is responsible for 25%, and the existing housing/population 74% (new homes would account for 0.73% of this figure).

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of HBF said: “The research highlights the absurdity and pointlessness of the ongoing ban on new homes. Everyone accepts that new build housing is a negligible contributor to the issue yet after over four years the ban goes on.

"Preventing new development does absolutely nothing to improve the disgraceful quality of our rivers, but is exacerbating our acute housing crisis, preventing people accessing decent accommodation and costing jobs.

"After another missed opportunity in the King’s Speech, we urgently need to see politicians delivering a solution to address this damaging ban so that desperately needed homes can be built.”

Brookbanks - Research Report Nov 2023

- 2.2 MB