How is Nutrient Neutrality addressed under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023?

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA) amends the Water Industry Act 1991 to apply nutrient pollution standards to sewage disposal works. The standards apply in England only and relate to discharges of treated effluent into areas which are nitrogen and phosphorus sensitive areas. It introduces a designation of phosphorous sensitive catchment and nitrogen sensitive catchment. The designation cannot be revoked, meaning that even if the area is no longer considered to be in an unfavourable condition by virtue of nitrogen or phosphorus pollution from nutrients in water, it will still be considered a sensitive catchment area and protected as such.

Certain sewage disposal works are exempt if they have a capacity of less than a population equivalent of 2000 when designation of the catchment area takes effect, or the Secretary of State designates the area as exempt. An area will not be exempt unless a plant has a capacity of less than a population equivalent of 250 and the designation takes effect after the designation of the associated catchment area.

An upgrade date for a nutrient significant plant, where the catchment area is designated during the initial period is 1 April 2030 or the date specified in the legislation where the catchment is designated after the end of the initial period (on 26 January 2023, being three months beginning with the date on which the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 is passed). If the designation of the catchment area takes effect before the plant becomes a nutrient significant plant the upgrade date is set out in legislation or the date on which a plant ceases to be an exempt plant.

The Secretary of State must maintain and publish online a map showing all nitrogen and phosphorous sensitive areas and an online document listing all plants that have been nitrogen or phosphorus significant plants with the upgrade date that applies for the time being the total nitrogen or phosphorus concentration that applies to the plants.

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