Nutrient Mitigation Strategy will unlock potential for up to 4,000 new houses in the Lugg catchment

High levels of Phosphate have long been known to damage our rivers including the Wye and Lugg. By 2019 Natural England advised Herefordshire Council that the levels of phosphate in the Lugg sub catchment meant that any new housing development must fully offset its phosphate load. This placed plans to build nearly 2000 homes in jeopardy until a solution could be found. 

 Herefordshire Council responded to this with a unique global first in developing the Luston Wetland to capture and remove phosphate, creating credits that could be used for new homes. The Luston Wetland is now complete and, partly funded by developers, and the remainder through New Homes Bonus and Local Enterprise Partnership funding, has secured credits for 1112 new homes.

The Council has now been successful in securing £1.9m further funding from the Department of Levelling Up for Homes and Communities for two further phases of mitigation measures, including a new Wetland at Tarrington.

These mitigation measures have good prospects of securing sufficient credits to meet housing growth in the Lugg area over the next decade. The scheme has been designed to ensure that costs are borne by central government and developers so that no costs fall on local council tax payers. 

A further benefit is that 20 per cent of the phosphate reduction is reserved to improve river water quality. However, the Council fully expects that Water Companies and Agriculture will meet their obligations to reduce their pollution under the “polluter pays” principle.

The Council’s Ecology service has also set up an advisory service to support private mitigation schemes, which will form a vital part of the solution to nutrient-neutral development.

Cllr Elissa Swinglehurst, Cabinet Member Environment, said: “It is fantastic to see the work already achieved on nutrient neutrality in the county, and agree an approach for the future that will deliver a minimum of 3,471 new homes in the Lugg catchment area. This helps to close the gap on housing needs identified within our Local Plan and enable economic development in a significant proportion of North Herefordshire.”