LAWYER representing hundreds of people and businesses impacted by River Wye pollution have written to various companies in the first stage of a major civil action.

Law firm, Leigh Day’s clients allege that three companies are responsible for major phosphorus pollution in the Wye and that this has caused algae blooms, cutting oxygen supplies to the river and harmed wildlife and plant life for which the river was famous, it is alleged.

The effect of the pollution has been a massive negative impact on people’s enjoyment of the Wye and on businesses which depend on it thriving.

Law firm Leigh Day has sent a ‘letter before action’ to Avara Foods, Freemans of Newent and Cargill PLC as the companies, its clients are alleged to be behind industrial scale chicken production in the area, outlining the effects of resulting pollution on people living and working in the Wye catchment area.

The letter sets out details of the nuisance claim against the companies and gives them the opportunity to resolve the dispute before formal court proceedings get under way.

If a satisfactory response is not received by August 20, preparations will begin to issue the legal claim in the High Court.

The legal letter demands compensation for phosphorus, odour, noise and insect pollution it alleges has been caused by the roles of Avara Foods, its subsidiary Freemans of Newent and its 50 per cent shareholder Cargill PLC in industrial-scale poultry production in the area.

Avara and its subsidiary Freemans together run the largest poultry business in the Wye catchment area, controlling 120 intensive poultry units, and are a major supplier to supermarkets such as Tesco PLC, says the letter.

Cargill PLC imports phosphorus-rich soy which is used to feed the poultry in the units, it adds.

The letter alleges that following a deal entered into by Cargill Meats Europe to supply Tesco PLC in 2013, poultry numbers increased in Herefordshire from 13 million to 18 million in the space of just four years.

The rapid growth resulted in a significant increase in the volume of poultry manure being produced in the Wye catchment.

The amount of manure produced has led to more than is needed being spread on land in the Wye catchment. It is estimated that 90 per cent of manure phosphorus currently enters the River Wye and its tributaries, causing increasingly intense and frequent algal blooms.

If a satisfactory response is not received by the lawyer, preparations will begin to issue the legal claim in the High Court.