29 August 2023
Nutrient Neutrality

While we absolutely must take wastewater and nutrient pollution in our rivers and watercourses incredibly seriously, we also need to make sure that we do so in a way that is fair and proportionate, and which doesn’t unnecessarily hurt our local communities.

That’s why, having worked closely with fellow MPs, local authorities and small developers based here in Mid Norfolkover recent months, I am delighted that the Government have listened to the many of us who have raised the unintended consequences of the ill-designed Nutrient Neutralityregulations which have not had the effect envisaged.

Norfolk has been one of the worst affected areas in the country as countless planning applications have ground to a halt for well over a year due to the new regulations. Many businesses and constituents have been caught up in the problems, with planning permissions unable to move forward and many stuck waiting for homes they have purchased to be built. This has in turn threatened so many jobs and livelihoods in the construction industry – especially our smaller local builders who are not the principle problem or policy target of improved “Nutrient Neutrality”.

I personally know of excellent local builders close to going bust because of this problem. All in an area where young people need to have somewhere to live – and our communities need smaller pockets of housing to keep them thriving and vibrant.

That’s why I am really optimistic about the unlocking of this problem today via the Government’s announcement. We now have a sensible and pragmatic approach that still protects the environment, but also helps to protect jobs and ensure housebuilding can continue again. 

Housebuilding was never the primary source of nutrients and phosphates entering our watercourses. Nutrient Neutrality is a case of the unintended consequences of sensible environmental laws.

So to mitigate this, the Government has pledged to:

• Provide £280million for Natural England to evolve and expand their Nutrient Mitigation Scheme so that it can implement new, additional measures such as the creation of wetlands – with larger developers to contribute fairly and appropriately towards the cost of this scheme moving forward

• Accelerate nutrient reduction activities by further work to develop Protected Site Strategies in the catchments most affected by nutrient pollution and with the most acute housing pressures. These new plans will be created by Natural England in partnership with local communities to identify bespoke measures to combat the causes of nutrient pollution in their catchments. 

• Go further to help farming (the primary cause of nutrient run off) grow food sustainably and protect the environment, increase productivity, and build a more circular economy for nutrients – by opening a new £25million nutrient management innovation fund, by investing £200million in slurry management infrastructure, and by consulting this year on modernising our fertiliser product standards to drive the use of products based on organic and recycled nutrients.

• Expand the mandate that requires water companies to improve their wastewater treatment works to the highest technically achievable limits by 2030

• Offset any additional nutrients from the 100,000 homes that will be unblocked by the Government’s announcement 

• Build on the the ambitious Plan for Water, which sets out stronger regulation, tougher enforcement and more than £2 billion of accelerated investment from water companies. 

This is all very welcome news and I remain committed to working with parliamentary colleagues (both here in Norfolk and those afield), as well as our local councils and small developers, as the Government works to ensure this vitally important issues are gripped properly, proportionately and fairly.


To see my previous webstory on this issue, please click here


To see the EDP article on the matter, please click here