There are still too many obstacles to building new homes in Herefordshire, according to a group representing the county’s builders.
The Herefordshire Construction Industry Lobby Group (HCILG) asked cabinet member for environment Coun Elissa Swinglehurst whether it was “sensible or fair” to retain environmental restrictions on building new homes in much of the county, given their “negligible” contribution to nutrient pollution in waterways.
It said Welsh Water, in charge of sewage and water supply in the river Wye catchment on both sides of the border, will be removing 14 tonnes of phosphate a year by next year through improvements to waste water treatment, but this will only benefit builders on the Welsh side.
Meanwhile a new amendment to the Levelling Up Act allows waste water upgrades to be treated as mitigation for development purposes – but only for English water companies, leaving Herefordshire “significantly disadvantaged”, the group said.
Coun Swinglehurst said the council “acknowledges that pollution from development is only a small percentage of overall pollution”, but is obliged by law “to demonstrate with scientific certainty that no plan or project will add further nutrient pollution”.
The council plans adding more constructed wetlands to add to the one at Luston, which has entitled developers to buy phosphate credits enabling “close to 600” new houses to be built, she added.
But HCILG responded that the credits “remain elusive and glacial”, adding: “We desperately need urgent support and presumably the council needs the money, homes and jobs HCILG generate?”
A new council service “allows developers to propose their own mitigation schemes”, Coun Swinglehurst said.
She added that the council had drawn former environment secretary Thérèse Coffey’s attention to Herefordshire’s iniquitous situation regarding mitigation during her visit to the county last spring, and would now “make further representation to government to highlight this issue”.
A government “plan for the Wye” promised during Ms Coffey’s visit has yet to materialise.