The secretary of state for housing blamed Labour for “thwarting” his bid to tackle nutrient rules blocking development

Michael Gove has confirmed there is no hope of scrapping the nutrient neutrality laws believed to be blocking the construction of 100,00 homes before the next election.

The housing secretary blamed Labour for the fact that the government was “incapable of bringing forward legislation” that would having “unlocked 100,000 new homes”. 


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Housing secretary Michael Gove

The current nutrient neutrality rules require that housing developments in specified areas do not add to pollution of waterways with nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphates.

Gove told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in October that he wanted the rules to be scrapped “at the first available opportunity” and indicated he would bring back a bill to parliament in order to do it.

But after announcing the publication of the much-delayed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in central London yesterday, Gove confirmed the current government would make no further bid to tackle nutrient rules before a general election.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that that commitment is in our manifesto,” he said. “And when we win the next election I hope that we will be able to introduce that legislation.” 

The government’s original plan was to amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to allow housebuilders to effectively ignore evidence of nutrient pollution from housing development sites. But this was defeated in the House of Lords in September after Labour peers joined a revolt against the plan.

Gove said Labour was “determined to thwart that legislation” which he described as “deeply disappointing.”

>>See also: Gove officially waters down housing targets 

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He added: “I ask Labour to show a similar level of ambition in putting legislation like that in their manifesto but I have very low expectations.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader and shadow housing secretary, vowed to reverse the government’s changes to the NPPF, including watering down local housing targets.

“Michael Gove’s latest announcement is truly through the looking glass,” Rayner said. 

“Labour is prepared to take the tough choices, jump-starting the planning system to get spades in the ground and deliver 1.5 million homes over the next Parliament. Our housing recovery plan will deliver the new homes our country desperately needs.”