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Publish date

19 September 2023

No more nutrient neutrality – Reform voted down

In our most recent update on the issue of nutrient neutrality, we advised that the Government had announced that it was proposing amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) on the issue – please see our article here. The amendments faced Parliamentary scrutiny and process last week and things have not gone smoothly.

Whilst nutrients entering our rivers are a real problem, the Government was concerned that development is being held up across a significant part of the country and the restrictions being placed on development are disproportionate to the contribution that development makes to nutrient pollution. The Government therefore proposed amendments to the LURB to “unblock new homes”.

The amendments included creating an assumption that pollution control regimes, which govern the levels of nutrient loads in treated wastewater, operate effectively. The pollution control regimes are outside of the planning system and the Government suggested the regimes should address many of the issues relating to discharge into rivers. Therefore, planning decisions should be made on the assumption that these pollution control regimes are working and nutrient flows from wastewater and nutrient neutrality does not need to be considered in planning decision making and plan-making, in nutrient neutrality catchments.

However, when the amendments to the LURB were presented to the House of Lords last week, the majority voted against them. Furthermore, the defeat in the House of Lords at this stage of the LURB’s review means that the Government cannot try to introduce the amendments again and if the Government wants to incorporate these changes into legislation, it will have to be brought forward in a new bill.

Seemingly not only is opinion divided on the topic of nutrient neutrality between developers and environmental groups, but also between political parties.

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