A call for evidence to look at successful nutrient mitigation schemes in areas where river phosphates and nitrates are too high, has been cautiously received by the housebuilding industry.

Currently, an estimated 120,000 proposed new homes are on hold because they are in areas where nitrate levels in rivers are regarded by Natural England as too high.

The government has offered funding for quality proposals to support clearer routes for developers to deliver in areas affected such as The Solent, Cornwall, Hereford and parts of the Northeast.

These could include creating offsite large-scale wetlands, woodlands and fallow habitats in swathes of land across England. Currently the Tees catchment area is working with developers to do just that.

The Home Builders Federation, HBF, said it was pleased the policy had been acknowledged as an issue for developers.

Although HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley added: “We continue to stress the need for urgent, workable and affordable solutions that reflect the minimal contribution new homes make to the issue.”

Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said: “Addressing this critical issue will be crucial for developers and the whole house-building supply chain to ensure that more homes can be built each year.”

The government has amended the levelling up and regeneration bill to require water companies in England to upgrade their waste treatment in polluted areas by 1st April 2030.

Intensive farming and poor wastewater treatments are to blame

The housebuilding industry has argued for some time that lack of investment by water companies and intensive farming have been the real culprits of river pollution.

Initially, 32 local planning authorities were affected by the European Court of Justice ruling in 2018 on the Dutch nitrogen case and interpretation of the habitats’ directive. However, since then the total number of planning authorities affected has risen to 74.

Property development finance brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said SME developers who had secured property development funding for housing schemes in affected areas were hugely frustrated by the issue.

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