The Green Party's co-leader Carla Denyer has slammed the government's environmental policies during a visit to Cornwall.

She said Environment Secretary Michael Gove's plan to "tear up" water pollution rules in favour of housing developers will make Cornwall’s sewage crisis even worse – and won’t help solve the housing crisis.

The Government has confirmed that EU-era restrictions that force housebuilders to mitigate the impact new developments have on river health are set to be scrapped under plans to provide an additional 100,000 new homes in England by 2030.

On a visit to Cornwall, co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer slammed Michael Gove’s plan to tear up the rules.

Speaking alongside Green Party Truro City councillors beside the Truro River, opposite the Newham Road pumping station that dumped untreated sewage into the river 28 times in 2022, Carla said: “Cornwall’s rivers and beaches have seen some of the worst sewage pollution in the whole of the UK – a massive problem for local people, for Cornwall’s reputation as a holiday destination and for local businesses such as the shellfisheries of the Carrick Roads.

“It’s outrageous that the government is proposing to waive rules designed to protect the environment as a favour for their property developer mates. It’s giving these developers a licence to pollute, and to describe this as a ‘Brexit bonus’ adds insult to injury.”

‘Nutrient neutrality’ rules are set by Natural England, in line with EU environmental standards, and are designed to make sure that housing developments don’t increase the amount of phosphates and nitrates in sewage and run-off to dangerous levels in wetlands and waterways.


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Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove announced last week that the government plans to change this from a legal requirement to mere ‘guidance’, which councils can choose to ignore when signing off new housing projects.

After visiting Truro, Carla met up with Green Party councillors in Newquay, where three local beaches – Crantock, Mawgan Porth and Harlyn Bay – have been hit with sewage pollution just in the past few days.

Carla said: “Talking with local Green councillors in Cornwall has left me in no doubt about the scale of the housing crisis here, with local people priced out of the market in almost every part of Cornwall. But to pretend that this is because water pollution rules are too tough is beyond ridiculous.

“The nutrient neutrality rules are the same across the whole of Europe. This has not stopped many other European countries creating far more housing than has happened in the UK in recent years.

“The problem is that developers are building the wrong type of homes, often in the wrong places, in order to maximise their profits, and are often failing to provide even the affordable housing that they promise when development applications are allowed.

“What Cornwall and many other parts of the UK need is more affordable homes, including homes for social rent, built to high energy efficiency standards so that they’re affordable to run too. We absolutely don’t need to see more shoddily built and environmentally damaging houses that are out of reach of local people.

“The Green Party also wants to see much tougher action on sewage pollution by the water companies, such as South West Water, which have failed to invest in the infrastructure needed to clean up their disgusting pollution of our waterways and beaches.

Under legislation derived from the EU, Natural England currently issues guidance to 62 local authority areas, requiring new developments to be nutrient neutral in their area, meaning developers must demonstrate and fund mitigation to win planning approval in certain areas.

This requirement will be watered down to become guidance under the changes being proposed.

Instead, changes will see the financial burden to mitigate nutrient pollution for new housing shifted from developers to taxpayers, with the Government saying it would double investment in its nutrient mitigation scheme, being run by Natural England, to £280 million. And a further £166 million will be allocated for slurry infrastructure grants.

The Government says it intends to work with the housebuilding industry to ensure that larger developers make what it describes as an appropriate and fair contribution to the scheme over the coming years.

No detail on that has been announced, but the Government said it is discussing how to do so with the Home Builders Federation.

The changes are being proposed via an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is currently going through the House of Lords, with the Government saying it could see additional homes being built in a matter of months.