Government intends to reform nutrient neutrality

As we have touched upon on previous recent articles, the Government previously backed down from ripping up the rules on nutrient neutrality, as part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. However, the matter would appear to still be firmly on the agenda and at a recent Conservative Party fringe event, Michael Gove announced that the Government would be proceeding with reforming nutrient neutrality under separate legislation. 

What does this mean for local planning authorities and developers?

No specific details have been provided on how the Government would reform nutrient neutrality in such legislation, but reforms could include steps such as:-.:

  • delaying nutrient neutrality to the pre-commencement, or pre-occupation, condition stage of a development. However, this would not provide developers with absolute certainty that developments could be built out and occupied;
  • allowing nutrient neutrality to be overridden in limited circumstances e.g. for affordable housing; and/or
  • expediting credit schemes to offset the impacts of nutrients from new developments. Whilst a third round of credits has been announced for Teeside, it’s unclear how soon the Government could roll out a credit scheme to the other 73 sensitive catchment areas.

For now, local planning authorities (LPAs) and developers have to proceed on the existing legal basis. New developments can only proceed in sensitive catchment areas, where it’s possible to mitigate the impacts of nutrients and demonstrate that the developments will not impact on the integrity of protected sites. This is discussed in more detail in our article concerning the case of Fry.

What’s next?

We are awaiting further information on the reforms to nutrient neutrality. The Government has also stated that it will be publishing details on support for nutrient mitigation schemes, including next steps on the Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund.

Local authorities and developers may want to consider establishing their own credit schemes to help unlock development. Ashfords advises both public and private sector clients on credit schemes for nutrients and biodiversity net gain. More information on credit schemes can be found here.

If you have any queries or would like further information on nutrient neutrality and credit schemes, please contact our public sector team.

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