Ross AC action on phosphate pollution steps up a gear.

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Since the post dated 21st December last year the Committee of the Club wanted another update on phosphate pollution in the River Wye. The update is long and rather detailed but it is important that Club Members appreciate the seriousness of the situation and the actions that the Club are undertaking to progress the issues involved.

Amongst the media coverage of the current events you may have seen articles in the press last summer about the water quality of the River Wye and, if you were fortunate to be fishing, you may have experienced the early season algal blooms. What follows is a summary of the actions the Club has undertaken in 2020 with regards to this issue and how we intend to follow this up in 2021.

  • In June, the secretary contacted Fish Legal with our concerns and provided a witness statement to inform a letter that was sent to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) about the club’s concerns. Their first response was a letter asking for specific details, even though there had been articles in many of the Sunday papers. However, due to the pressure exerted, in December NRW published a document (link below – please read) that provided the first indication that they recognise there is a problem; the key statement being: The data shows that, because of stretching new targets, over 60% of the River Wye and its catchments fail against the new targets set.

On behalf of the club, Trevor Hyde has been testing for phosphate on a weekly basis since July sending the results to the Wye Salmon Association, who are collating whole river data. The Habitat Directive upper limit for phosphate has been exceeded in 80% of the measurements, with the worse measurement being almost 10 times higher.

In December, the Club Secretary wrote, for the second time in 2020, to Jesse Norman regarding our concerns of the quality of the river and in particular because Bill Wiggin (MP North Herefordshire) intended to propose this amendment to the Environment Bill: In making decisions on planning decisions, the competent authority can disregard any impact of the potential build and its long-term consequences on the level of phosphates in the water.

The response from Jesse Norman was as follows: I very much share your concerns regarding ecological damage to the River Wye, and I have taken a very proactive stance on this issue. I have discussed the issue regarding phosphates at length with Cllr Elissa Swinglehurst and council officers, including in relation to the Nutrient Management Board, and met with Simon Evans from the Wye and Usk Foundation, as well as stakeholders from the farming community and local construction sector.

As you will doubtless be aware, there has also been a serious concern about differing standards between England and Wales, and about the impact of recent poultry shed construction in Wales, apparently exacerbated by a lack of testing by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

I too was very pleased by the NRW statement, which comes in response to pressure from me and others. I am arranging a meeting to be held early in the New Year with Fay Jones MP (Brecon and Radnor), Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency and the local Nutrient Management Board in order to facilitate a cross border discussion. I have also written to and spoken with the CEO of Avara Foods in Wales
in order to assess their policies and compliance. NRW have now announced a moratorium of their own, which may in part reflect our lobbying.

As regards Westminster, I have lobbied Defra Ministers at all levels including the Secretary of State, and I have written to Ministers at both Defra and more recently the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy regarding the impact of growing maize on soil and pollution in the River Wye.

If I may say so, I would not read too much into Bill Wiggin’s amendment. Bill is well aware of the negative impact of phosphates, but used this parliamentary device to highlight the impact which the present situation has on the building industry. I do not think he ever had any intention of pressing his amendment, and it would not have
passed if he had.

Ross Angling Club members should be assured that in 2021, your Committee will continue to work with Fish Legal on this issue and hold Jesse Norman to account through follow up correspondence. Phosphate testing will continue. We also intend to enter into a dialogue with the Wye and Usk Foundation as to what actions they are intending to take with regards to water quality. If any member has any practical suggestions or expertise in this are do contact the secretary. Please be reassured that this issue is a priority for the club.

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