Government's nutrient neutrality defeat is a win for nature

Management & Regulation

Lords defeated government’s housing and nutrients plan last week. Here’s why it’s a win for nature markets and more sustainable development

Over recent weeks, the UK government sought to remove barriers to housebuilding resulting from nutrient neutrality rules – restrictions where new development would put extra nutrient stress on designated sensitive nature sites – in a move that horrified campaigners.

A challenge since 2018, various organisations had been working to put in place mechanisms that could mitigate the impacts within the relevant catchment, developing nature markets they felt would be a sustainable model for the future.

Government’s stance that the approach was holding up 100,000 valuable new homes that could affordably house those struggling to get on the housing ladder failed to convince Peers. As did the housing industry’s argument that the approach was “just offsetting”.

During a lengthy debate last week, in which one ex-Environment Secretary described the government’s proposed amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill as the worst piece of legislation he’d seen, the argument was won that the nascent approach was achieving results and worth persevering with.

In this The Environment magazine article, written before the Lords decision, Gabriel Connor-Streich from Greenshank Environmental Ltd sets out why nutrient credit markets are a workable enabler for more sustainable development.

Or listen to our latest episode of the Planet Possible podcast discussing what the proposed nutrient neutrality changes would have meant for river health.

Host Niki Roach is joined by Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow and the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, who in 2021, put forward the private members bill that kickstarted much of the debate around river health. And, Dr Gabriel Connor-Streich joins Niki to co-host and offer his perspective based on his experience of developing nutrient neutrality guidance with Natural England and more recently advocating for an alternative approach.

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