Housebuilding targets should have legal weight, says Lords committee


Housebuilding targets should be put on an equal footing to environmental goals, a House of Lords committee has said.

The Lords’ Built Environment Committeereport says the way conflicts are managed between new housing and the needs of the environment results in “failing to deliver” both, according to Construction News’ sister magazine Architects’ Journal.

The committee said housebuilding targets should have “statutory weight” to give them “equal status with environmental goals”.

Conservative peer Daniel Moylan, who chairs the committee, 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 coordination in policy-making and haphazard and unbalanced implementation.

“‘It has become clear that until the government reconciles its own policy goals, it will continue to constrain new housebuilding in the name of improving the environment without delivering that goal either.”

The report comes a day after the prime minister pledged a more “pragmatic, proportionate, and realistic” approach to the environment that “eased the burden on working people”.

The committee said the policy backdrop to housing and the environment was “confusing” and “unclear” and that government guidance had made the “situation worse, not better”.

It pointed to the “effective moratoria” on housebuilding as a result of official advice on water neutrality, which it said risked putting small developers in affected areas out of business.

The government’s failed plan to scale back environmental rules on water pollution to “unblock 100,000 homes” by 2030 was opposed by some bodies, with the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds calling the rule change a “national scandal” that could cause “total ecological collapse” in some rivers.

The Office for Environmental Protection said the government had “not adequately explained how, alongside such weakening of environmental law, new policy measures will ensure it still meets its objectives for water quality”.

Housebuilders claimed the rule had blocked at least 100,000 new homes since 2019. But the plan to relax the rule was blocked by the House of Lords last week after it voted down the amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The government is now considering how to carry out its planned boost to housebuilding while preserving waterways.

Evidence to the Lords committee suggests that recent Nature England advice on the nutrient, water and recreational applications of the Habitats Regulations put at risk the delivery of 45,000 homes a year.

A government spokesperson said: “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 delivered a significant package to restore waterways to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.

“We have already invested £10bn to increase housing supply since the start of this Parliament, including £1bn 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.”

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