Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill update: Government is not ripping up nutrient neutrality

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The Government has announced that it will not be ripping up the rules on nutrient neutrality, as part of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill (the ‘Bill’). This comes after The House of Lords recently rejected the Government’s proposal to abolish nutrient neutrality requirements  for new developments. The Government also stated that it will make further announcements about next steps on nutrient neutrality “in due course”, but no details were provided. 

What does this mean for local planning authorities?

Instead, local planning authorities (LPAs) should 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. 

Upgrading wastewater treatment works 

There will be a new duty on water companies to upgrade wastewater treatment works in designated areas by 2030. Recent amendments to the Bill include more flexibility for water companies in terms of how they reduce nutrient pollution across affected catchments. The Government anticipates the requirement for LPAs to consider wastewater treatment works, as part of assessing impacts on protected areas, “will significantly reduce the average costs of nutrient mitigation” in designated sensitive catchment areas. 

A list of treatment works to be upgraded will be published within 3 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

What’s next? 

The Bill has been returned to the House of Commons for their consideration. The Government is aiming to secure Royal Assent before the King’s speech on 7 November 2023.

Details on support for nutrient mitigation schemes, including next steps on the Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund will be published by the Government shortly. 

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

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