I'm not going to lie: I wasn't and am still not the biggest fan of Brexit. However, our exit from the EU gives the Government a chance to end the Natural England led madness of nutrient neutrality.
On 16 March Natural England sprang a surprise on local authorities across England by announcing a swathe of additional habitats sites that are adversely affected by nutrients caused by new housing development. The effect has been a moratorium on housing development in those authorities, whilst they grapple with the implications. This could last for months or even years.
The source of the new advice is the EU Habitats Directive, implemented in England through the Habitats Regulations, and the subsequent jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice. Until developments can show that their sewage discharges will be nutrient neutral in their impacts upon such sites they are blocked from proceeding. Showing such neutrality is not a simple task. As a result of pre-Brexit domestic case law, even sites with outline planning permission are blocked from proceeding as reserved matters applications are also embargoed.
Some clever counsel are suggesting that as a result of Brexit, reserved matters embargoes are no longer justified, although it seems to me that you may first need to pay a trip to the Supreme Court to achieve that and remove the shackles imposed under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
But, I ask why is it that new development is being punished for the harm that has already been caused to the protected habitats by existing agricultural activities and housing? Rather than stall much needed new housing across England, why not put in place a system to tackle the issue of nutrients at the sewage treatment stage, which can be paid for both by the existing polluters and the promoters of new dwellings. Putting in place such a system at a national level could then justify regulations that exempted affected developments from having to demonstrate compliance with the Habitats Regulations. Its perfectly permissible in a post-Brexit world.
Mr Rees-Mogg (Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency of the United Kingdom) - I'm not exactly sure what your role in Government is these days, but maybe you could have a think about this?
The implications of the proliferation of areas where housebuilding is blocked to prevent water pollution