Ministers propose scrapping ‘Nutrient Neutrality’ rules to build more homes – 29 August 2023

According to a BBC report, the Government has announced that it plans to scrap ‘disproportionate’ planning constraints that ‘have blocked thousands of homes being built in the UK’.

Under the current ‘Nutrient Neutrality’ legislation, developments in protected areas across England must show they will not cause any nutrients to seep into nearby water for new building projects to be granted nutrient neutral status before they can begin building – rather than allowing builders to mitigate the impact of their work across multiple developments.

Natural England lays down regulations for local planning authorities to ensure housebuilding achieves “nutrient neutrality”. This means that developments do not result in a net increase in nutrients which can damage habitats, estuaries and wildlife. To meet this condition, Natural England says extra nutrients created by additional wastewater need to be mitigated.

Baroness Scott, a junior minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), said the government recognised the need to protect freshwater habitats and rivers, and was tackling “underlying pollution”. But nutrient neutrality had placed a significant burden on housebuilders “despite the limited impact extra wastewater from residents in new developments has on waterbodies”, she added.

The Home Building Federation claim that agricultural run-off and the failure of water companies to upgrade infrastructure to cope with the growing population resulting in the dumping of raw sewage into rivers, are the root causes of the nutrients issue. They estimate that the contribution of all housing stock is less than 5%, so adding 120,000 homes to England’s stock of 25 million dwellings would lead to a negligible increase. They also point out that modern new builds are more water-efficient than older homes.

The DEP has not yet agreed a common position on this matter, but here is a link to a press release from the Save The Deben Campaign Group. We will be happy to post other viewpoints as we receive them.

Rebecca Pow & Therese Coffey meet with Anglian Water and other DEP members to discuss water quality – 10 August 2023

“Environment Secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey brought together a group of interested parties in Woodbridge to discuss how to improve water quality.

Groups from the whole length of the river were represented as they discussed how to try to ensure there are no more sewage leaks or chemical incidents.

Dr Coffey said it was important that people with an interest in the whole of the river were invited to try to maintain a high water quality. She jointly chaired the meeting with Water Minister Rebecca Pow and it also discussed the delivery of the Plan for Water, which will bring increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to the water sector.

Key areas of discussions included the designation of bathing sites in the area; pollution resulting from storm overflows, wastewater treatment and agriculture and  water resources.

Roundtable attendees included representatives from local councils, Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, the NFU, Natural England, the River Deben Association and Anglian Water.”


Starting to shape the new Estuary Plan – 11 July 2023

Work continues apace on the Plan to revise the Estuary Management Plan! It began with the recognisable first step – post-its on the wall!

It has progressed to a recognisable draft structure with the scope of each chapter now being developed. Names will be put in the frame and invitations to join the Editorial Teams sent out as soon as possible.  We are working towards presenting progress so far in September at the next General Meeting.

Introduction to the new DEP Exec – 10 July 2023

At the Steering Group meeting of 26 June 2023, it was recognised by all present that the continued absence of the current Chair left the organisation largely directionless. So an Interim Chair and Vice Chair were appointed to lead the work for now, and they would be be confirmed or replaced at the next General Meeting, which will take place in September 2023.

Thomas Yeung – Interim Chair: Thomas has extensive experience in environmental consultancy, most recently as part of Coastal Partnership East. He is an enthusiastic sailor and Vice-Commodore of the Deben Yacht Club.

Colin Nicholson – Interim Vice Chair: Colin brings professional experience of information management and governance to the DEP and is the Co-Chair of the River Deben Association.

Dee McLeavy – Administrator: Having worked on the DEFRA Marine Pioneer Project and coordinated Going with the Flow/Tides and the Deben Estuary for Woodbridge Riverside Trust, Dee brings much experience of community engagement projects to the organisation.