Building of 20,000 homes left in limbo due to pollution concerns, councils say

Urgent action and funding is needed to address river pollution and low water levels so 20,000 new homes left in limbo can be built, councils warn.

Aerial view of the River Wye

Urgent action and funding is needed to address river pollution and low water levels so 20,000 new homes left in limbo can be built, councils warn today. 

The Local Government Association - which represents councils in England and Wales - has said short-term local solutions are needed to address significant environmental concerns on river pollution and tackle low water levels, to allow pockets of building in areas which have seen new housing banned.

Pollutants caused by agriculture and water companies which run into our rivers means that some planned housebuilding is unable to go ahead, at a time when demand for housing is growing rapidly, according to a new report by the LGA. Rising levels of water abstraction for drinking water supplies, caused by new development, is also leading to further threats to wildlife and the natural environment.

While there are some plans in place to offset these issues, such as creating new wetlands, these can be expensive, time consuming and can require large amounts of land.

In the meantime, councils are calling for a doubling down on long-term action to protect rivers by focusing reducing pollution at source.  

Continuing uncertainty over how to resolve water shortage and river nutrient pollution could also lead to more areas of the country breaching the levels that halt construction.

The LGA says immediate steps could be taken to speed up vital housebuilding, including giving affected areas funding to invest in locally available solutions, such as improving water efficiency of homes, targeted agricultural upgrades and upgrading wastewater treatment works.

Greater sharing of information, skills and technical expertise and giving farmers clear guidance on the use of fertilisers and livestock practices, alongside other support, would also help address river pollution and get building back on track.

Cllr David Renard, LGA Environment spokesperson, said:

“Thousands of new homes are on hold due to river pollution and water level concerns, leaving councils in limbo on how to meet increasing demand for urgent accommodation.

“We need to find short-term local ways to address this pollution and water availability before longer term solutions are found to stop the pollution at the source, so the land can be built on. This will help address the housing crisis, with more than 1.2 million households on waiting lists in desperate need of somewhere to stay.

“Councils want to work together with government, agencies, developers and the agricultural sector to find ways address pollution locally so homes can be built, while doing everything possible to reduce pollution at source, maintain safe water levels and avoid other areas getting caught up in this environmental bind.”

Notes to Editors

The 20,000 delayed homes figure includes 17,000 due to river pollution, and 3,000 because of low water levels