Philip Dunne backs Government action and mitigation measures to tackle the unintended impact of EU legacy nutrient neutrality laws on the delivery of new homes, which will help unlock planning blocks in special areas of conservation such as the River Clun catchment while preserving the quality of the river in the catchment.
The Minister will recognise that I and many other colleagues on the Government side of the House share the admirable objectives of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) in ensuring that the water quality of our rivers improves year by year under the Government and their successors. The Minister’s proposals to amend the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill are not about damaging the status of our rivers; as I understand it, they are about dealing with a particular and specific interpretation of the EU habitats directive by the European Court of Justice in connection with a case in Holland prior to the time we left the EU. If that is the case—she has referred to the litigation and measures she has undertaken—does she agree that in special areas of conservation such as the River Clun catchment in my constituency, where no planning consent has been granted for nine years, these measures will help to unlock that while preserving the quality of the river in the catchment?
You have taken longer than the person who asked the question.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much. He is right in his observation that this has been a judgment imposed on the United Kingdom after we left the European Union. This is not a long-standing convention in any shape or form. He is also right to highlight the measures we are putting in place to protect our rivers and the environment more broadly. We are also putting in place a substantial package to help farmers to farm more sustainability, manage their slurry infrastructure more effectively and be able to drive the circular economy in farming that we all want. He mentioned specific catchments in his area. We have committed to bring forward a Wye catchment plan shortly, which I hope will address the issues he is referring to.