Michael Gove planning to rewrite water pollution rules in bid to boost housebuilding

29 August 2023, 06:48

Environmental groups have warned the plans could pollute England's rivers
Environmental groups have warned the plans could pollute England's rivers. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Michael Gove is to announce a major rewriting of rules on waterway pollution in a bid to boost housebuilding in England.

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Alongside environment secretary Thérèse Coffey, Mr Gove is planning to rip up "nutrient neutrality" rules, which have been criticised by developers and some Tory MPs for blocking housebuilding.

The rules are in place to prevent developments or projects from dangerously increasing nutrient levels in local wetlands and waterways in protected areas.

Natural England rules on nutrient neutrality will become guidance instead, giving local officials the choice to either ignore or follow it, The Sun reports.

The move is likely to anger environmental groups
The move is likely to anger environmental groups. Picture: Getty

Property developers could be asked to help contribute to a "mitigation fund" to help tackle any pollution caused by building on greenfield and brownfield sites.

This major shift is likely to anger environmental campaigners.

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The rules date to 2017 and were introduced when the UK was still part of the EU, and have been enforced by Natural England.

Developers claim the group have enforced the rules in such a strict way that as many 120,000 new homes have been put on hold, The Guardian reports.

Michael Gove
Michael Gove. Picture: Getty

Tory MP Simon Clarke, a former senior minister in Liz Truss's short-lived administration, has long called for reform in this area.

He said the move would be a "welcome victory for common sense".