Henry Smith: ‘Ministers do not need to scrap river pollution rules to build more houses’

In a surprising turn of events, the Government’s recent setback in the House of Lords over the repeal of nutrient neutrality laws raises important questions about the UK’s ability to address housing shortages. It’s clear that, at least for now, we need to think beyond traditional approaches to this pressing issue.

In September, I sent a letter to the Chancellor, along with nearly 20 colleagues in both Houses of Parliament, calling for the widescale rollout of water-saving solutions, which can not only reduce household water and energy bills but increase headroom for new build homes and crucially, reduce the number of nutrients that are discharged back into wastewater.

In 2022, I was pleased to have a trial of a water-saving solution piloted in my Crawley constituency. The trial, which cost less than £200 per household, yielded water and energy bill savings of almost £400 per year. These sorts of savings can have a positive impact for low-income families, especially during the cost-of-living pressures we have experienced this past year.

Historically, water-saving solutions have faced criticism for causing low-pressure showers and user dissatisfaction. Contrary to this perception, modern innovations do not compromise water pressure. Instead, they regulate fluctuations in water flow, ensuring a consistent stream without sacrificing comfort.

Having seen the trial conducted in my constituency and the positive feedback from residents, I thought, why aren’t these technologies used more widely? Despite up to 40% of the energy used in a home being used to heat hot water, I found it concerning that water-saving solutions are currently excluded from the Government’s flagship fuel poverty scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) but strangely, included in the Public Sector Decarbonisation scheme (PSDS) – a point I have reinforced to the Chancellor in my letter.

Knowing there was an appetite across both Houses for cost-effective, innovative solutions, that can help, save people money on their bills, reduce carbon emissions and go some way to ensuring we can have a sustainable and consistent supply of new build homes, I wanted to show the Chancellor and other colleagues in Government, that innovative solutions already exist and can help solve a number of the Prime Minister’s current challenges. Big problems don’t always require big solutions.

For the Conservatives to enhance its reputation as the party of homeownership, the Party must find alternative ways to ensure we have a reliable and affordable housing supply.

With around 120,000 new build homes remaining stuck in the development process due to either water stress and nutrient concerns, the Government is clearly missing an opportunity in not utilising readily deployable solutions that are unobtrusive to households and cost-effective such as water-saving products.

By embracing these innovations, we can simultaneously address housing shortages, lower living costs, and reduce our environmental footprint. It’s a win-win solution that demands serious consideration from our Government.

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