Rishi Sunak rips up EU rules to greenlight 100,000 new homes

Over-the-top EU environmental restrictions had blocked many developments near waterways.But the Prime Minister said freedoms gained by Britain leaving the bloc mean the regulations can be ditched in an £18billion shot in the arm for the economy.

He told the Daily Express: “I was proud to vote for Brexit, I believe in Brexit and I am determined to make sure we seize the benefits.

“Our announcement yesterday will unlock 100,000 new homes in communities where people want those homes.

“It will provide an £18billion boost to our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs.”

Mr Sunak added: “We’re able to do it because we are able to use our Brexit freedoms to scrap a disproportionate and poorly targeted old EU ruling that blocked these homes.

EU ruling that blocked these homes. Thankfully we can now reverse that. “And alongside that we are investing hundreds of millions of pounds to continue protecting and enhancing our precious natural environment.

That’s fantastic for first-time buyers who have been waiting to achieve their dream of home ownership.” Mr Sunak said that rules dating from Britain’s membership of the European Union were hindering developers from building further housing estates.

The PM added: “I want to see more homes built. It’s also what local communities want. “But sometimes hangover EU laws get in the way. It’s not right.

“So I’m cutting the red tape to unlock thousands of new homes and I’m stepping up action to protect our environment.” Regulations on “nutrient neutrality” were put in place in 2019 after a ruling by the European Court of Justice.

The rules stop developers building houses in protected areas if work means substances such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can cause algal blooms that deprive other plants and animals of light and oxygen, will increase in nearby rivers and lakes.

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Natural England, the public body overseeing sustainable development, currently issues guidance to 62 local authority areas requiring new developments to be nutrient neutral. This means developers must demonstrate and fund mitigation in order to win planning approval.

The Government is scrapping the requirement by making changes to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that is going through Parliament.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the reforms would put an end to “clunky” EU-era environmental protections on river pollution.

He joined Mr Sunak to tour a Taylor Wimpey housing development at Hethersett near Norwich yesterday where they met builders and early residents.

Mr Gove added: “The way in which we’ve been dealing with it, as a result of some sort of clunky EU laws, has meant that we haven’t secured the investment that we needed to improve our environment and we’ve also got a total block on housing in large parts of the country.”

The Centre for Policy Studies think-tank said Brexit freedoms were helping the country throw off “overzealous” European rules while protecting the environment in a more cost-effective way.

Tory MP Stuart Anderson said: “These EU laws weren’t working and had a real impact on housebuilding in our country. “It’s right that with our freedoms post-Brexit we remove these regulations to free up opportunities for more houses while also strengthening environmental protections.”

The member for Wolverhampton South West added: “Nutrient neutrality guidance was a well-meaning peice of EU legislation to prevent housebuilding from negatively affecting the local environment.

“The guidance however was too broad and restrictive, frustrating housebuilding without addressing the real environmental issues.”

The Government will double investment in a nutrient mitigation scheme being run by Natural England to £280million.

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Mr Sunak insisted he is committed to protecting the environment and meeting “net zero” targets on carbon but in a “proportionate and pragmatic way that does not unnecessarily burden families and households in the process”.

He added: “We have got a proud track record on tackling climate change, we have reduced our emissions faster than pretty much any developed country.”

But environmental campaigners accused said the reform was a “disgraceful move”. Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “In May, June and July the Government made promises to the British people and to Parliament that they would not lower environmental protections or standards.

“They lied – this is a disgraceful move which undermines public trust in this Government. “Make no mistake – this is a licence from the Government for the commercial housebuilding lobby to profit from the pollution of our rivers.

Vague offers of money as compensation are not the same as a legislative requirement – and even the existing rules are extremely modest.”

Martin Salter, head of policy at anglers’ body the Angling Trust, said: “Politics is about choices and the Government have chosen to side with the polluters rather than maintain vital protections for our beleaguered rivers and watercourses.

“Of course, if they were actually serious about their pledge to be ‘the greenest Government ever’ our woefully inadequate sewage treatment works would have already been upgraded and would be more than capable of processing the additional flows from new housing schemes to a standard acceptable in a modern country.”

Doug Parr, policy director for Greenpeace UK, said: “Who would look at our sickly, sewage-infested rivers and conclude that what they need is weaker pollution rules? No-one.”

Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said: “With housebuilding projected to fall to the lowest level since World War Two and our rivers full of sewage, the Conservatives are failing on both housing and the environment.”

Shares in housebuilders rose sharply on the London market at the prospect of strict planning rules being eased. Persimmon saw its stock jump more than 4 percent on the FTSE 100 Index as Barratt Developments rose by 3 percent and Taylor Wimpey nearly matched them.

Stewart Baseley, the executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said the announcement had the potential to unlock housing delivery across the UK.

He added: “The industry is eager to play its part in delivering mitigation and protecting our waterways. We look forward to engaging with Government on the right way to do so, now that ministers are acting upon the arguments that builders both large and small have been making for so long.”

Number of home sales at lowest level in 11 years, writes Sarah O’Grady.

Property sales have plummeted to their lowest level in more than a decade, as 14 interest rate rises drove up mortgage costs, research shows.

While one million sale completions are expected by the end of 2023, total sales will be 21 percent below 2022’s figure, making it the lowest total since 2012.

This level is equivalent to a household moving once every 23 years, a rise of six years since 2021, Zoopla’s House Price Index reveals.

Zoopla’s Richard Donnell said: “While UK house prices are 0.1 percent higher, it’s sale numbers that have been hit the hardest by higher borrowing costs, especially among mortgage-reliant buyers.

“Mortgage rates have started to fall slowly but rates need to fall below 5 percent before the appetite to move home in the second half of 2023 increases.”

New 15-year highs in mortgage costs were noted recently, after the Bank of England upped rates 14 times in a row to 5.25 percent in a bid to quell inflation.

Average monthly payments soared from £1,020 to £1,249 in the past year, based on a typical five-year fixed-rate loan, while mortgage costs as a percentage of income shot up to 35 percent from 30 percent.

Sales of three and four-bed homes fell by 40 percent in July compared to that month in the past five years. Existing homeowners using a mortgage typically make up a third of sales and they are more likely to wait until the mortgage rate outlook improves.

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