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Labour to Vote Against Plans to Scrap Nutrient Neutral Laws

nutrient neutrality

Last week, Rishi Sunak announced that the government is planning on scrapping EU-era water pollution regulations for new housing developments in the UK. As things stand, building new homes near waterways is problematic in the UK due to the fact developers must prove that their projects are “nutrient neutral”.

Nutrient neutral

The only way to get around this issue is to prove that extra nutrients won’t be added to surrounding waterways as a result of the development – something that is hard to accomplish. Explaining the logic behind the decision to scrap the regulations, Sunak labelled them “disproportionate” and “poorly targeted”.

By scrapping these laws, the government believe that around 100,000 new homes can be built by 2030 – the main incentive behind the decision. The decision was met with fury by environmental groups and today, Labour have confirmed that they are set to vote against the government’s plans.

In an article written in The Times, Angela Rayner, the new shadow levelling secretary, and Steve Reed, the new shadow environmental secretary, stated that the Labour Party will look to protect the legislation, labelling the Conservatives’ plans as “reckless.” They added:

“The Tories are sacrificing nature for cheap political point scoring. Labour will speed up planning to build the homes we need without trashing the environment.”

“The Tories are being thoroughly disingenuous in suggesting that the only way we can build the homes we need in sensitive river catchment areas is by weakening environmental law. Don’t fall for it.”

A change of heart from the Labour party?

When the Conservatives announced their decision last week, key members of the party were quite coy when pressed for their position on the matter. Lisa Nandy, the then Shadow Levelling up Secretary, said:

“Labour will support effective measures that get Britain building, but it’s laughable to think that a prime minister who is too weak to stand up to the nimbys on his own backbenches can be trusted to deliver the housing Britain needs.

“With housebuilding projected to fall to the lowest level since the second world war and our rivers full of sewage, the Tories are failing on both housing and the environment.”

However, a week is a very long time in politics and since then Sir Keir Starmer has reshuffled his shadow cabinet and Nandy is no longer the shadow Levelling Up Secretary. She has been replaced by Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, who has been very clear in her Times column today that the party will be pushing against the move.

The pressure applied from environmental groups may well have also been a factor, rather than a switching cabinet. Several large organisations have been very vocal over the past week, including The Rivers Trust, The Wildlife and Countryside Link and The Wildlife Trust.

“The Government’s plans to remove legal controls on nutrient neutrality go against nature protection pledges. We’re calling on peers to reject these damaging plans. They must protect our waterways.”

The Wildlife Trust

If Labour are to be successful in their bid to throw the amendment out of parliament then they will need help from rebel Tory peers, however, Greens and Lib Dems are expected to also vote against the ruling.

The debate moves online

The vote on the removal of the laws will take place later today but that hasn’t stopped key members of both parties going back and forth on social media site, X. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, posted:

“Today Labour claimed to be the party of home ownership yet tomorrow they plan to vote down laws that would unlock 100k homes. Sir Keir is seeking to end the dream of home ownership for thousands of families by playing politics. Labour are the party of the blockers not the builders.”

Angela Rayner replied saying that Gove’s statement was “more raw sewage from the Tory Party.” She also posted a nine-part thread, explaining why Labour were opposing the plans. Within that, she wrote:

“The Tories are being thoroughly disingenuous in suggesting that the only way we can build the homes we need in sensitive river catchment areas is by weakening environmental law. Don’t fall for it.”

Final thought

As the vote on the removal of the EU pollution laws approaches, it remains to be seen whether the government will push through with their plans or if Labour and other opposition parties will be able to block the amendment. Ultimately, the outcome will have significant implications for the future of housing development in the UK and the protection of the environment.

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