Gov't to lower speed limits for lower emissions to restart construction projects: report

The government wants to quickly reduce the maximum speed limits on Dutch roads in order to get housing construction up and running again. Lowering the speed limit will reduce the nitrogen emissions caused by road traffic, creating room for nitrogen emissions caused by construction projects, is the idea, AD reports based on sources in The Hague. 

At a construction worker protest in The Hague on Wednesday, Minister Caroal Schouten of Agriculture said that the government will focus first on where the need is greatest. That is housing construction. Many construction projects are on hold after the Council of State declared the government's Nitrogen Approach Program invalid. And the Netherlands is facing a housing shortage. The Minister announced a so-called threshold value for nitrogen emissions in residential construction, which will allow small and medium sized construction projects - "up to 200 homes" - continue without long-running permit procedures.

But such a measure can only be implemented if nitrogen emissions are lowered elsewhere. "You first realize nitrogen space, and then you spend it", a source in The Hague said to AD. "A part goes to housing. And a part is not used, because the nitrogen precipitation in nature must ultimately be reduced."

The government is also looking into low-nitrogen animal feed for livestock farmers. According to AD's sources, such feed can reduce the emission of ammonia in the short term. 

These measures are not expected to reduce nitrogen emissions very significantly, but enough to get housing construction going again, according to the newspaper. Other construction projects will have to wait for advice from the Council of State, which is expected in mid-December. 

The emergency measures by the government seems to be a response to warnings from the construction sector, which said that the nitrogen crisis could lead to a new economic crisis. While the coalition is still arguing about what to do about nitrogen emissions and livestock, they al support giving the builders their way, according to AD. The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie all agree that resolving the housing shortage must have priority.

Nevertheless, the cabinet's quick response to Wednesday's protest is raising eyebrows within the coalition parties. "It now looks like something only happens when a major demonstration is announced", a 'coalition source' said to AD. "With such ad hoc policy there is a good chance that many more demonstrations will follow." This image also came from provinces reversing announced nitrogen measures after protests from the agriculture sector.