Lords to assess impact of environmental regulations on development plans

An inquiry into how environmental regulations such as biodiversity net gain (BNG) and nutrient neutrality rules are impacting development has been launched by a lords select committee.

The government has set out a number of environmental protection regulations for the development of the built environment, such as BNG, nutrient neutrality, habitats and air quality, which are administered through the planning system. In January the government also set out targets within the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 for land use, water and air quality, and waste, as promised in its 25-year environment plan.

At the same time, the government also has an objective of “significantly boosting the supply of homes” and to support the delivery of infrastructure projects.

READ MORE: Biodiversity net gain consultation response: 9 things you need to know

The inquiry, which has been launched by the cross-party Built Environment Committee, aims to assess how environmental regulations such as these impact the delivery of projects and the associated costs for developers and promoters in England.

In the scope of this inquiry, the committee has said it is “not seeking to evaluate the merits of individual environmental regulations but rather how these are implemented through the planning system and the interactions between different environmental regulations”. It has also said it will not be looking at building regulations, heritage sites, or specific land use allocations such as the green belt.

It has noted one of its aims is to ensure that the implementation of the new requirements in the Environment Act 2021 “draws on lessons to date”.

Some notable questions it is asking are “to what extent are the information needs of the planning system proportionate?” and “how far do the key actors in implementing environmental regulations have sufficient resources to carry out their responsibilities?”.

The inquiry also asks whether the approach to regulations is joined up enough, and how effectively regulators the Environment Agency and Natural England work and communicate.

In terms of costs to developers, the committee asks “What is the single biggest challenge for developers and promoters in fulfilling environmental requirements? How could this be resolved?”.

The chair of the Built Environment Committee, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, said that the number of households in England is projected to rise by 3.7 million over the next 20 years.

She continued: “This increase will be unsustainable and damaging to society unless the corresponding need is met. Meeting this demand will be a question of numbers, but also of balancing where and what kind of buildings people want to live in

“Our inquiry will focus on what shapes the type of housing needed in the UK as well as a range of challenges to meeting that demand. We will then make our recommendations to government.”

Its first oral evidence session is set to take place on 28 February, and the deadline for the submission of written evidence is 31 March this year.

The committee most recently also held an inquiry into infrastructure policymaking and implementation in central government, which it is due to receive a government response to this spring.