The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has set out its concerns to the Government on easing planning laws near many waterways in England. The change would enable housebuilding to take place in areas that are currently protected, risking the pollution of rivers and streams in areas including Kent, Norfolk, Teesside and Wiltshire. In this short blog Ben Goodwin, IEMA’s Head of Policy, considers the impacts of this change and sets out the Institute’s wider concerns with the Government’s Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB).

The specific change that the OEP has written to the Government on relates to the removal of the requirement for ‘nutrient neutrality’ in protected areas. The requirement means that new housing and development projects should not result in more nutrients being added to surrounding waterways. Adding nutrients has potential consequences for water quality and can also impact negatively on local wildlife.

The Government is seeking to carry through the reform by amending the LURB that is currently making its way through Parliament, with Baroness Scott of Bybrook having tabled the proposals earlier this week in the House of Lords.

Concern on this issue is widespread with professional bodies, community groups, and campaigners all united in the belief that this change is regressive for environmental protection in England and that it should not be carried through.

IEMA shares in this sentiment.

Set within the wider context of the LURB, the proposed change only adds to our concerns about the impact that the legislation will have on the state of the natural environment in England.

The LURB is proposing a shift away from the current environmental impact assessment (EIA) regime to an outcome-based approach. New Environmental Outcomes Reports will be pursued that the Government suggests will enable its environmental priorities to be better integrated with plan-making and decision-making for the largest developments.

IEMA is concerned that this new legislation will not necessarily lead to better outcomes for the environment and instead, a different approach to reforming the current EIA regime should be taken. Indeed, we are calling for policymakers, with support from business, to:

  • Create a National Environmental Assessment Unit to enhance EIA delivery in England
  • Promote evidence-based practice and continue to mandate the use of competent experts
  • Create more meaningful opportunities to improve public participation in the planning system

Over the coming weeks, IEMA will be working with our members and partners to highlight the risks associated with the LURB – including the specific waterways amendment discussed above – with key decision-makers in government.

Photo of Ben goodwin
Ben Goodwin

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, IEMA, IEMA

Ben is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at IEMA. In this capacity he looks after the delivery of IEMAs core policy, practice and public affairs activities across a range of environmental and sustainability issues. Prior to joining the organisation Ben worked in several similar policy roles at organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Renewable Energy Association.


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