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Home Builders Federation Warns of Housing Crisis Amid EU Nutrient Neutrality Laws

Home Builders Federation Warns of Housing Crisis Amid EU Nutrient Neutrality Laws

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has issued a stark warning, indicating that European Union nutrient neutrality laws could potentially impede the construction of up to 150,000 new homes in England. This caution comes amidst concerns raised by the trade organisation regarding regulatory hurdles imposed by Natural England since June 2019.


According to the HBF, Natural England has advised 74 local planning authorities to refrain from granting planning permissions for residential developments unless they ensure nutrient neutrality. However, the government's research highlights agricultural run-off and inadequate infrastructure maintenance by water companies as the primary culprits behind nutrient pollution, with existing developments contributing minimally to the issue.


Despite recognising the urgency of the matter, the government's response has been criticised. While water companies have been granted until 2030 to upgrade their processes, a proposed plan to restrict access to high-nutrient fertilisers for farmers was reversed. Consequently, Natural England's moratorium on new homes remains in place, while permissions for new agricultural plants continue unabated.


To comply with regulations, housebuilders are required to demonstrate nutrient neutrality, a challenging task given the scarcity of viable mitigation schemes. In desperation, some builders have resorted to purchasing trout or pig farms, taking them out of use to unlock housing sites. This measure, while a temporary solution, underscores the severity of the situation.


The impact of these regulations disproportionately affects small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the construction sector. Many operate on limited sites, facing devastating consequences such as layoffs and uncertainty about their future. The HBF stresses that urgent action is imperative to mitigate these repercussions and ensure the timely delivery of much-needed housing.

In response to the crisis, the HBF has outlined several recommendations. Firstly, it urges the government to lift Natural England's moratorium on house building and focus on addressing the root causes of nutrient pollution. Alternatively, if nutrient neutrality remains a requirement, the organisation proposes updating Natural England's nutrient calculator to more accurately assess the impact of new residential developments. Additionally, it calls for a comprehensive support package tailored to assist SME home builders lacking the financial resources to implement nature-based solutions.


As the housing sector grapples with regulatory challenges, the HBF emphasises the necessity of immediate government intervention to safeguard the industry's viability and alleviate the housing shortage gripping the nation.

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