Working together to get growth moving

Row of houses

Four Councils in Norfolk have formed a unique partnership to address the potentially catastrophic impediment to growth caused by the Nutrient Neutrality restrictions.

South Norfolk, Broadland, Breckland and North Norfolk have established a new Joint venture company called, Norfolk Environmental Credits (NEC). The company will provide a trading platform for nutrient offsetting and other environmental credits, including Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

Nutrient Neutrality has had a profound impact on many parts of the country and has stalled thousands of desperately needed homes. One of the most significantly affected areas is Norfolk where multiple Districts have been unable to grant planning permission for new homes for the last 18 months leading to a backlog of approximately 16,000 new homes.

While it is acknowledged that the Government is continuing to seek a ‘silver bullet’ solution to the restrictions arising from nutrient neutrality, in this vacuum of uncertainty there is a need to deliver local solutions to re-start our growth agenda.

This is not the first environmental trading platform to be established but it is the first time that so many Councils have formed a trading company of this nature. Furthermore, this partnership is at the vanguard of delivering significant tranches of credits to meet the nutrient demands of new housing and is doing so in an innovative manner.

Norfolk Environmental Credits is designed to secure largescale nutrient mitigation from projects such as changes in use of agricultural land, septic tank conversion and water infrastructure enhancements. These credits are then parcelled up by the company and sold to developers to offset the equivalent amount of nutrients arising from their new development.

The company’s first deal will compensate a local farmer Mr Daniels, for changing how he uses his land. Mr Daniels said:

“I am working with the Councils to help reduce the amount of nutrients that are released into the river and our agreement means that I will no longer farm pigs on the land. I have also agreed that I will manage the fields and plant wild bird cover to help improve the biodiversity of the area. Hopefully by doing this we will help small builders to get back to work.”

This single deal will provide credits to offset approximately 5,000 new homes and the company will prioritise the needs of SME builders to ensure they can secure much needed cash flow. Assuming an average house price of £300k this equates to a £1.5bn initiative which will have a profound positive impact upon the economy of the respective districts.

The company’s business plan sets out the allocation policy for distributing credits across the four districts. It also sets out the initial credit price for nutrient neutrality which is currently the lowest price in the country and the money invested by the Councils in the land will be repaid by the sale of these credits to developers.

Norfolk Environmental Credits has launched its new website allowing housing developers to calculate their additional nutrient load and register an interest in purchasing credits as they become available. The website also provides a mechanism for landowners and interested parties to come forward with potential nutrient mitigation solutions that the joint venture may wish to invest in.

Published: 26 October 2023