Liz Truss wants to ditch an environmental rule blamed for slowing down the construction of more than 100,000 homes if she becomes prime minister, The Telegraph can reveal.
The Foreign Secretary is planning to scrap the “nutrient neutrality” requirement, brought in after a European Court of Justice ruling in 2018.
The rule requires developers to detail the impact in terms of pollution of their proposals on rivers and wetlands and to promise mitigation measures, such as the creation of new wetlands, to secure planning permission.
But critics argue that tit has slowed construction, over-exaggerated environmental impacts and created uncertainty, exacerbating the housing crisis.
In March, the Home Builders Federation conducted an analysis that found 120,000 homes were being delayed. Some 74 local planning authorities are bound by the rule, which is ordered by Natural England, part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
A Truss campaign source told The Telegraph: “Our current system of planning is too bureaucratic, too slow, and too complex. We would reform the planning system and cut red tape that prevents local communities from building the houses they want.
“We would remove Brussels red tape, such as nutrient neutrality, that has stalled housing projects without delivering on what it is designed to address.”
The move would be part of Ms Truss’s promised overhaul of house-building strategy but could be criticised by environmental groups.
She has promised to scrap “Stalinist” top-down housing targets, arguing that there should be a bottom-up approach instead.
That position means she has effectively promised to abandon the 2019 Conservative election manifesto pledge to provide 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
Truss campaign figures believe the targets have failed to deliver a marked increase in house building and proven ineffective despite being adopted by successive Tory governments.
Ms Truss’s desire to ditch the “nutrient neutrality” rule is the first indication of what her local approach to speeding up construction could look like.
She would change it through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is going through Parliament, according to a campaign source.
How this would be enacted remains to be seen, with the exact wording of any legislative changes to be worked up if she wins office.
How might it be done – well the Levelling Up Bill contains an ‘Environmental Outcomes Report’ section replacing AA/SEA/EA which contains a statement as required by the Brexit legislation that the new legislation would have no detriment to the environment compared to existing. There could be powers in the bill to override and direct the equivalent of AA where a project would cause net detriment to a national networks (formally European habitat) site but that would mean abandoning the safeguard that new rules protect as much as old post Brexit. It also means that in the grip of the farming lobby the Tories would be protecting the intensive chicken farmers owning the 16 million chickens pooping in the Wye (the biggest concentration in the world) effectively killing off our most scenic river. Its right to say it is wrong to make housebuilders bare all the mitigation burden, rather than water treatment companies (though there is a new bill clause hitting them) or intensive farmers. However politics has affected farmers. The tories don’t want to go down the Dutch route of closing down chicken farms or imposing a nitrates tax of nitrates cap and trade because they dont want , as in the Netherlands, government buildings sprayed with chicken shit by rioting farmers. George (Usless) Esutace has refused to impose intensive farming constraints on the worst effected rivers. So we should simply expect from Truss legislation killing off rivers.