A false premise and a regression in law
Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 14 September 2023
A false premise, and a regression in law
By means of an amendment (published 28 August 2023) to the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill the Government is seeking to impose an unprecedented regulation, which stipulates that local planning authorities ‘must assume that nutrients in urban waste water” (sewage) from a proposed development “whether alone or in combination with other factors will not adversely affect the relevant site’ (protected habitats/wildlife sites)– ‘even if a finding to the contrary is made in representations made by the appropriate nature conservation body’ .
Not only would this imposed assumption remove essential environmental protection, but it would also be a huge undermining of the vital planning role of councils, and of Natural England in planning and environmental assessment processes.
The Government claims that the measure is needed to unblock the building of over 100,000 new homes, ‘held up due to defective EU laws’.
This, however, is a false premise because under the extant Government-approved Natural England (NE) Nutrient Mitigation Scheme “when development is designed alongside suitable mitigation measures, the additional damage can often be avoided”.
And “if the appropriate assessment cannot rule out damage due to nutrient pollution, mitigation to reduce or eliminate the impact can be put in place”. And the development permitted (NE Nutrient Neutrality and Nutrient Mitigation, March 2023; Ministerial Statement on improving water quality and tackling nutrient pollution, 20Jul22).
In a letter, dated 1 September 2023, the Chair of the Office for Environmental Protection advised the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that the amendments are ‘contrary to statements made in each House of Parliament on behalf of the Government under section 20 of the Environment Act 2021. Under that section, the Government has stated its view that the Bill “will not have the effect of reducing the level of protection provided for by existing environmental law”. Should the proposed amendments be adopted and form part of the Bill, this would no longer be accurate’. And that
‘What is certain is that the proposed amendments would amount to regression in law’.
What do Sussex’s MPs say?
Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex