River pollution putting new-builds on hold, investigation finds

100,000 new-builds in England and Wales are at risk due to restrictions on developments pressuring authorities to hit phosphate pollution targets in waterways.

Homes set to be built across the UK face being delayed or even being scrapped because of river pollution which could cost the economy £16bn, a BBC investigation uncovered. 

Experts have reported phosphate, a chemical which can be found in animal and human waste, is getting into rivers and affecting the quality of water.

Housing developers are urging governments to take immediate action in finding a solution to the problem and The Home Builders Federation are assisting in representing them. 

However, campaigners have said more must be done to save rivers in the UK before it’s too late.

Stricter rules on river pollution targets, which were adopted in 2020, have affected 5000 new homes in Wales and could cost their economy £700m.

HBF have contacted planning authorities and developers calculated 74 areas in England are also affected by phosphate restrictions on housebuilding.

The trade association has estimated the impact could be a £16bn loss in economic activity in England and Wales, reports the BBC.

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the HBF told the BBC: ‘We have government agency-imposed moratoriums on house building across large swathes of the country for nutrient neutrality, despite house building being a minor contributor to the issue.

‘House building delivers growth, and it is crucial that the government re-evaluates the impacts of these costs and moratoriums and ensures that the industry is sufficiently supported such that it can deliver desperately needed new homes and the associated social and economic benefits.

‘It is encouraging that after almost three years of home builders’ pleas, the government seems to be looking to find solutions, but we need urgent actions that matches the scale and urgency of the issue.’

The problem of phosphate pollution has been a serious issue in Wales since 2021 – too much phosphate in the water can lead to increased algae growth which can release toxins harmful to humans and animals and decreases the levels of oxygen in the water. 

Last year the country set new targets for the pollution issue causing new builds to hit a stand-still and applications to construct new homes being rejected. 

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake told the BBC whilst it is good the country is trying to create cleaner waterways, rural areas in Wales, such as Ceredigion, are facing a housing ‘crisis’ and can’t afford to have new builds rejected. 

Photo by Sandy Millar


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