Hundreds of affordable housing units to be built in Wales are currently stuck in the planning process following new targets for phosphate levels in rivers.
Housing associations said Inside the accommodation that the new rules essentially put an “embargo” on development in large parts of the country and could impact the government’s goal of building 20,000 new affordable homes this legislature.
In January, Natural Resources Wales set tougher goals for phosphate levels for all rivers which are special areas of conservation across Wales.
Daniel Lloyd, technical and land director at Wales’ largest housing association, Pobl, said the targets had led to a halt in planning requests in around half of the country’s local authorities.
This is because one of the main sources of phosphates in rivers is sewage from homes and other developments.
Mr Lloyd estimated that Pobl has around 500 homes currently affected by the problem, many of which he says are in areas with “great housing need”.
Phosphates are nutrients naturally present in small quantities and necessary for the proper functioning of rivers.
But if found at high levels, phosphates can be damaging to wildlife as they lead to algae growth, which can restrict oxygen levels in the water.
Rivers that have been identified as having high levels of phosphates are home to wildlife such as Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel, white-footed crayfish and floating aquatic plantain, according to Natural Resources Wales.
A Welsh government spokesperson said phosphate pollution “poses a serious risk to the health and well-being of our future generations if left unchecked”.
Craig Sparrow, director of development at ClwydAlyn, said the goals “were wreaking havoc” on social owners and private developers.
ClwydAlyn currently has six projects, totaling 429 housing units, which are affected by the problem.
âEveryone has worked really hard to make more and more housing, but now it’s happened in these areas and it’s really touched us for six a bit,â Mr. Sparrow said.
My Lloyd added: ‘The biggest risk, I guess, is that the Welsh government obviously aspires to provide 20,000 affordable homes. Now I would say probably half of the authorities in Wales are currently affected by this, so currently there is an embargo on developments in much of Wales. ”
He also said that to date, no way has been identified to move the issue forward.
The Welsh government said: ‘We are in a climate and natural emergency and must ensure that what we do today does not have unintended consequences that would prove harmful to communities and future generations. We are committed to building 20,000 low-carbon, affordable rental homes over the next five years and are working closely with our partners to achieve this ambitious goal. “
In 2019, a similar issue halted development in southern England when Natural England issued a notice stating that building permit should only be granted to developments that could prove they were nitrate neutral.
Natural Resources Wales has been contacted for comment.