Construction industry calls for relaxation of environmental protection
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has written to Housing Secretary Michael Gove to call for a relaxation of developer requirements to protect wetlands.
Construction of homes in Somerset, Solent and Kent is being blocked by a requirement for builders to avoid any negative impact on wetland habitats. Local planning authorities have imposed stop orders on the determination of new planning requests, matters reserved and discharge conditions.
âIt is imperative that everything possible to remove the current threat to the delivery of housing and commercial developments as quickly as possible by finding short and long term solutions,â said CLC Co-Chair Andy Mitchell at Michael Gove in his letter.
He explains, âTypically, building a house in affected areas requires setting aside an equivalent area of ââland for mitigation. In Somerset, for example, it is calculated that to clear the backlog of 11,000 dwellings delayed by this problem would require 630 hectares of land to be turned over to provide wetlands (providing wetland mitigation is the least land-intensive option). It should be cleaned up and built, in the necessary sub-basins, just to clear the existing backlog. On top of that, Somerset’s four local planning authorities are expected to deliver 2,720 homes per year. This would require about 150 additional hectares of land to be turned into wetlands each year for the foreseeable future. “
He says that while large home builders can sometimes cope with constraints, smaller developers are particularly affected.
“The delays associated with the nutrient problem are likely to lead many SMEs to bankruptcy, so a faster and more efficient way must be found to eliminate this threat,” writes Andy Mitchell. âIdeally, the guidelines published by Natural England should be adjusted to weigh the costs associated with low short-term nutrient release against the broader public interest benefits of housing construction and other development.
âBut we also have to find a longer-term solution. This should recognize negligible amounts of nutrient pollution from new housing and commercial projects and find effective ways to reduce important nutrient pollution from other sources, including agriculture. At the same time, the government, together with OfWat, should encourage a rapid program of upgrading wastewater treatment facilities by water utilities so that they are able to filter nutrients from new developments and other sources before they enter waterways. Targeted investments to improve water treatment infrastructure would be a wise way to unlock nature’s recovery and new developments. “
He concludes: âWith the nutrient problem becoming increasingly difficult and widespread, the CLC would urge the government to take swift and effective action to prevent the damage to housing and delivery of commercial developments from becoming even more serious. The CLC would appreciate your participation in negotiating short and long term solutions and facilitating better collaboration with other government departments and agencies to this end.
As real estate agent Savills explained last month *, the issue of nitrates and phosphates in water systems has become an immediate challenge for developers following a United Kingdom Court of Justice ruling. ‘EU in 2018 regarding the interpretation of the Habitats Directive. At high concentrations, these nutrients cause excess algae to grow, depleting oxygen in the water and damaging other aquatic life. Following the judgment, in special protection areas any new development must comply with EU legislation which sets recommended limits for nutrient levels in water. This effectively created a moratorium on all new housing developments in affected locations that would flow into a protected water system, either directly or indirectly through one of its watersheds.