Bob Weston says green regulations are adding 20% to build costs as housebuilder pulls 1,100-home scheme

The founder of Weston Homes has called for a full review of the burden of regulations on housebuilders. 

The Essex-based builder last week decided to cancel plans for a 1,100-home site in Norwich after eight years of work, blaming national planning interventions, net neutrality rules and building safety reforms, among other factors. 

Anglia Square, Norwich

Weston Homes cancelled its 1,100-home  Anglia Square scheme last week

Speaking to Housing Today after the announcement, chair and managing director Bob Weston said that the Anglia Square scheme was by no means an exception and that all sites were “under the same pressure” on cost. 

“The most significant thing looking forward is the massive increase in build cost which has been twofold, a 30-35% increase in inflation build cost, plus another 20% increase in build cost due to environmental regulations and green agenda requirements,” he said. 

“That is generating a 55% increase in cost at a time when values are at best static – you don’t need a calculator to work out [the impact]”. 

Weston said that while he did not think the net zero agenda was “the wrong thing”, he said more intention needed to be paid to the “unintended consequence” of green policies on delivery. 

He continued: “I think someone needs to sit back and do a review of all [regulations] and say ‘are we absolutely certain that we need to be doing this?’.  

“Certain things you are going to come up with the answer that we are, and we need to find ways around it. But I think it does need a review.” 

He said he did not think housebuilding was a priority for the government and accused the housing secretary, Michael Gove, of embracing a “NIMBY” strategy to “defend marginal seats”. 

Weston singled out net neutrality rules for particular criticism – which held up the Anglia Square scheme for 18 months – noting research that laid the blame for nutrient pollution at the door of farmers. 

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The HBF has said nutrient neutrality rules, which require that housing developments in specified areas do not add to pollution of waterways with nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphates, are holding back 150,000 homes currently. 


Bob Weston

Michael Gove had promised to scrap the rules “at the first availability opportunity” through standalone legislation, after failing to pass the reforms as an amendment to another bill. 

However, he recently confirmed that a “congested King’s Speech” meant it would not be dealt with in this parliament. 

“Why is building 1,100 homes in Norwich city centre considered the cause of nutrients in the River Wensum?” he asked. 

He estimated that housebuilding rates would fall to 100,000 homes per year and said it would take “three to five years, even under a new administration, to get that output back up”. 

“The damage is significant and long-term,” he added.