Government ‘misses chance to save Wye’

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Thursday 19th May 2022 11:00 am
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Local campaigners have expressed dismay at the Government’s failure to bring in tougher environmental protection for the Wye and other rivers.

A report by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in January highlighted how intensive livestock and poultry farming “is putting enormous pressure on catchments such as the river Wye” and recommended that new poultry farms “should not be granted planning permission in catchments exceeding their nutrient budgets”.

But today the Government has said in its official response that it “does not agree that planning authorities should adopt a broad policy against farming infrastructure”.

It said that instead, it is increasing support for farmers to use more sustainable methods, and “setting clearer expectations for farmers” under new guidance.

The committee also recommend that the Government compel water companies to measure and publish volumes of sewage outflows into rivers – which the Government has now also rejected.

The Government has set itself a target of reducing the number of sewage discharges by 40 per cent by 2040, and agricultural pollution entering waterways by at least 40 per cent by 2037.

“Despite Minister Rebecca Pow’s recent visit to the Wye, she isn’t doing anything to address this crisis,” Friends of the Upper Wye chair Dr Tom Tibbits said.

“The Wye catchment already has far more manure than the land can absorb. This failure of political leadership could be the death sentence for it.”

Dr Christine Hugh-Jones of the Friends of the Lugg citizen science monitoring project said: “So far we have seen none of the required national cooperation between England and Wales over our mutual river catchments and now, in response to the serious informed concern of the EAC, the English Government is setting a miserable, evasive example.”

Wye Salmon Association chair Stuart Smith said: “Depressing to see another report suggesting denial by the government of the basic problems and issues confronting our river.”

And Nick Day, co-founder of Friends of the Lower Wye, added that this stretch of the river “is all too often blanketed by catastrophic algal blooms, to the cost of all the other life in the river.

“To put a stop to this, all forms of pollution must be tackled, urgently. This governmental response is hopelessly inadequate.”

But Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, who chairs the EAC, said: “The Government has clearly been listening and ministers have shown a determination to engage constructively with the committee’s recommendations.

“Its response to our report is broadly positive.”

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