Natural England’s ban on new homes began in June 2019, leaving builders in limbo
We now estimate more than 150,000 new build homes have been blocked from being built because of Natural England’s disproportionate moratorium on housebuilding in more than a quarter of local authority areas, from Cornwall to the Tees Valley.
Since June 2019 Natural England has issued advice to 74 local planning authorities preventing them from granting planning permission for residential development unless nutrient neutrality could be achieved.
The Government’s own research has found agricultural run-off and the inaction of water companies to maintain infrastructure to be the overwhelming causes of the nutrients issue. It is estimated that all existing development in affected catchment areas contributes less than 5% towards the phosphate and nitrate loads in rivers – meaning that the occupants of any new homes built would make a negligible difference.
Despite this Government has given water companies until 2030 to upgrade their processes and U-turned on a plan to reduce access to high nutrient fertilisers for farmers. The only intervention aimed at addressing river pollution has seen Natural England put a block on much-needed new homes, while planning permissions continue to be granted for new agricultural plants.
To continue building, house builders need to demonstrate 'nutrient neutrality' but very few of the required mitigation schemes currently exist. Instead, builders have been forced into buying trout or pig farms and taking them out of use in an effort to unlock new housing sites and keep staff employed.
Many small local builders only operate on one or a few sites, so the impact of the moratorium is devastating. The only way for house builders to get any return on the investment in land and material is to complete and sell a home. Deprived of that option, SME builders are laying off staff and having to consider their future in the sector. Allied to delays in planning and wider growing regulatory costs and requirements, the outlook for SME builders is bleak.
While we welcomed government’s acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue as part of the Spring Budget and support the drive to clean up our country’s rivers, action must be taken now to alleviate the impact on home builders so they can deliver much-needed housing.
Nutrient neutrality in numbers
- 74 local authority areas have been affected
- 150,000 homes have been delayed or blocked
- 45 new homes are impacted every day*
- 16,425 fewer homes will be completed each year*
- 4 Prime Ministers have led our country
- 5 Environment Secretaries have been in office
- 6 Housing Secretaries have occupied a seat at the cabinet table
- 8 Housing Ministers have been in post
*Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities' Estimate of homes subject to nutrient neutrality requirements