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Peers have condemned Rishi Sunak’s Government for the second time in a week for failing political leadership in both tackling environmental pollution and building homes.
A report by the Lords’ Built Environment Committee says that Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, will fail to reach his target of building 300,000 new homes a year while Therese Coffey, the Environment Secretary, will fail in her policy to end the decline in the numbers of protected birds and mammals in England by 2030.
This comes after a report this week by the Lords Industry and Regulatory Committee, which severely criticised Ms Coffey for “deep rooted complacency” over tackling sewage and pollution problems in rivers and beaches.
The committee states that the problem is that the two ministries’ policies clash with each other because new house building in both the countryside and brownfield inner city sites have to pay for new biodiversity schemes to protect nature before they can build a single property.
Central to the problem is the level of nitrates and phosphates polluting rivers and threatening declining species. To mitigate this Natural England, a Department for Environment agency, has imposed these new rules on housebuilders. But at the same time another part of government, the Environment Agency, has given farmers derogations to allow larger run offs of nutrients into rivers creating more pollution.
As a result peers estimate that 45,000 new homes a year will not be built and 61 per cent of special sites of scientific interest, already in an unfavourable condition, will not be improved. Small builders are already hit by this and unable to build homes.
Lord Moylan, Chair of the Built Environment Committee, said the current policy was “failing to deliver” for either the environment or homeseekers.
“The current approach to managing any conflict between new homes and the needs of the environment is failing to deliver for either side”, Moylan said.
“Our inquiry found that the achievement of the Government’s housing and environmental policies has been hampered and sometimes completely blocked by lack of co-ordination in policy-making and haphazard and unbalanced implementation.
“There is no way the Government can deliver on its housebuilding targets unless it is brave and displays the political leadership necessary to deliver and implement a comprehensive strategy for both development and the environment.”
The report also highlights clashes between new home building and recreational use of the countryside. In Ashridge beech woods, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire borders, the National Trust, is facing enormous pressures from visitors living nearby disturbing wildlife so Natural England has blocked plans for 5000 homes, which already had outline planning permission.
Last week Mchael Gove tried to relax environmental regulations for building new homes but was defeated in the House of Lords. The dispute was highlighted as a political attempt to discredit Labour exposing them as “blockers” against the Tories as “builders.”
But this report from the Lords suggests these issues stem from a failure of two government departments to work together. It calls for house building to be given the same statutory weight as environment regulations and for a cross government approach to tackling both the environment and future house building programmes.
A Government spokesperson told Byline Times: “We know we must work together to build the homes this country needs – tackling pollution at source while protecting and improving the environment.
“The recent reforms we set out would have unlocked 100,000 much needed homes and deliver a significant package to restore waterways to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
“We have already invested £10 billion to increase housing supply since the start of this Parliament, including £1 billion to unlock unloved brownfield sites, so we can build more of the right homes in the right places.
“We will now consider the Committee’s findings and respond in due course.”