Labour to vote against ‘reckless’ plan to scrap housebuilding pollution rules

Labour is preparing to block “reckless and irresponsible” Government plans to relax environmental rules to boost housebuilding.

The House of Lords is set to vote on Wednesday on scrapping EU-era rules that force housebuilders to mitigate the impact development has on river health.

With Labour peers poised to vote against the change, it is likely to be defeated in the Upper House.

Removing the requirements will “unblock” 100,000 new homes by 2030, according to ministers.

But Labour argued the change will increase river pollution.

Current nutrient neutrality rules mean that when developers build new homes in protected areas they are required to provide mitigations to ensure no new additional nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus make it into rivers and lakes, where they can cause algal blooms that deprive other plants and animals of light and oxygen.

This requirement will be watered down to become guidance under the changes being proposed through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, currently going through the House of Lords.

Shadow levelling up secretary Angela Rayner and shadow environment secretary Steve Reed said nutrient neutrality rules are posing a challenge to development and “the status quo is clearly not an option”.

But they said weakening environmental law is not the only way to increase the housing supply.

Writing in the Times, the Labour frontbenchers said: “We must build the homes people need while also protecting the environment we live in.

“Their approach would not only significantly weaken environmental law and increase river pollution but would fatally undermine the emerging market in nutrient pollution reduction that developers are already making use of.

“This government has made the housing crisis worse by torpedoing housing supply. Now it is trying to cover up this failure by conjuring up a false narrative that pitches housebuilding against protecting our natural environment.”

They pointed to ways to other solutions, including directing local authorities to approve planning applications held up by nutrient neutrality rules, subject to so-called Grampian conditions.

They said if Labour’s amendment is rejected in the Lords, it will vote against the Government’s plans.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove tweeted: “Today Labour claimed to be the party of homeownership yet tomorrow they plan to vote down laws that would unlock 100k homes.

“Sir Keir is seeking to end the dream of homeownership for thousands of families by playing politics.

“Labour are the party of the blockers not the builders.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to “back the builders, not the blockers” if his party gains power at the next general election.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said: “Labour’s commitment to planning reform has fallen at the first hurdle.”