Article hero

Government announces proposal to withdraw nutrient neutrality restriction for new homes

August 2023

The Government has announced plans to remove the requirement for new housing developments to demonstrate nutrient neutrality prior to planning permission being granted. This will be enabled through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently working its way through Parliament.

Currently, laws on nutrient neutrality are blocking the delivery of new homes within the Somerset Levels and Moors, River Axe and other catchment areas. It has been estimated that over 18,000 homes across Somerset are currently stuck in the planning process, with parts of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall also affected.

Nutrients entering the environment are a real problem, but it is well known that the contribution made by new homes is very small. The majority of nutrient pollution in rivers and wetlands comes from farming and from existing homes, with existing water treatment infrastructure currently unable to effectively remove the harmful nutrients. The Government has indicated it plans to tackle these issues at source.

Grant aid will assist farmers to reduce run-off, improve slurry storage and spreading procedures and better manage plant and soil nutrients. The Government will pass laws to require water companies to upgrade wastewater treatment works and funding will be made available for restoration of affected environments and habitats. Meanwhile, further consultation will take place on new requirements for developers to implement Sustainable Drainage Solutions, which will reduce pressure on storm overflows from new homes.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP said: “These changes will provide a multi-billion pound boost for the UK economy and see us build more than 100,000 new homes.  Protecting the environment is paramount which is why the measures we’re announcing today will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways whilst still building the much-needed homes this country needs.”

The announcement has been widely welcomed by house builders, who feel they have been disproportionately impacted by the nutrient neutrality issue. However, there has also been a negative reaction to the announcement from some parties, including environmental charities and those seeking to establish nutrient credit markets.

Subject to approval in the House of Lords, and provided that there are no legal challenges, the proposed changes could come into effect within the next few months but the timeline remains uncertain. Until then the requirement to demonstrate nutrient neutrality in the affected areas will remain in place. 

Greenslade Taylor Hunt’s Development Land and Planning Department has been advising developers, landowners and farmers across the South West in relation to nutrient neutrality since the issue first arose in 2020.  If you would like further advice in relation to these announcements, please contact our specialist consultants by calling 01823 334466, or emailing 


Related News