Plan to stop new homes ban to come this month

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Saturday 9th April 2022 7:00 am
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Merry Albright and CllrJohn Harrington (insets) both pointed to ways out of the current moratorium on building new developments in Herefordshire

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Details of a scheme to unblock the temporary ban on building across much of Herefordshire are expected later this month.

Meanwhile, the county’s developers are looking at bringing in a scheme of their own to overcome the environmental restrictions on building work in the county.

Herefordshire Council is buying up land on which to create three “integrated” wetlands, one of which has now gained planning permission, and may invest in more, Herefordshire Council’s cabinet member for transport and infrastructure Coun John Harrington said.

These are intended to compensate for extra water pollution arising from new developments in the catchments of the rivers Wye and Lugg special areas of conservation (SACs), so leaving these in no worse condition overall.

“I am hoping that our next cabinet meeting (on April 28) will be able to consider proposals to offer developers credits which will begin to get the north of the county building again,” Coun Harrington told cabinet colleagues.

Compared with the building moratorium imposed on these areas since 2019, “restrictions do not seem to apply up or downstream of the Lugg or to any other sector”, Herefordshire Construction Industry Lobby Group chair Merry Albright told the meeting.

Coun John Harrington said: “We are all very conscious of what a severe impact that this has had upon homebuilders, construction workers and people wanting new homes.

“But the statutory agencies put the pressure on us as the permission giver, and if we’re giving permission against their advice, we are the ones at risk.”

Ms Albright said that “progress from the agencies, our neighbouring authorities, charities and the agricultural sector remains slow, uncertain and unlikely to deliver river and soil restoration and end the moratorium”.

She suggested that alongside the wetlands, the council should “embrace and support any privately delivered nutrient and ecology betterment projects, paid for by the construction sector” – although details have yet to emerge on what such projects would consist of.

One the role of the River Wye Nutrient Management Plan Board (NMB), of which Ms Albright is a member, Coun Harrington said: “Many of the issues the catchment faces are systemic and need much greater attention than the NMB is equipped to deliver.”

Changes the council is seeking from the government and its agencies “don’t seem to be happening as quickly as we would like”, he explained.

“We have tried to take this out of the hands of the agencies that control this by supporting a water protection zone.”

The council asked environment minister Rebecca Pow MP to bring in this more robust protection measure for the Wye and Lugg catchments earlier this year. The council has yet to receive a formal response.

Les Fancourt, a builder in the county, said: “Builders and developers are not and never haver been the prime polluters, but we have been punished.

“Communication in the first year or so of the moratorium was non-existent, and is still poor, while our businesses and livelihoods have been severely affected .”

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