Shropshire Star

Shropshire river is so polluted that there is no clear solution in sight - planning hearing told

A Shropshire river is so polluted that a block has been placed on any developments that could add to phosphate and nitrates being added to the water.

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The river Clun near Clunton.

Experts have been left scratching their heads for so long that a planning inspector was told that one developer in the Clun area has been waiting for NINE YEARS for his housing plan to be decided.

One possible part solution being looked at is putting water from the Bishop’s Castle water treatment works into the River Onny instead of the River Kemp. The Onny is not in the Clun catchment area.

A hearing into the Shropshire Local Plan on Tuesday was told that the option has not been fully worked through.

And despite regular monthly meetings of the Clun strategic liaison group and involving Shropshire Council and Severn Trent Water the option has not been fully worked through.

The inspector was told that the diversion option has its own "potential environmental challenges" including on wildlife habitat regulations and whether it would be deliverable.

Other solutions also have some doubt about their ability to create benefits.

Background papers presented as a part of the local plan examination taking place this week and next say that whilst the experts are confident that it is possible to reduce nutrient and sediment levels to target "the scale of the task means we may need to utilise all available measures to do so."

Even after doing everything they can, including planting more trees, they are "not confident that having used all measures for restoration that there will be any measures left available for nutrient neutrality."

Another measure is called using riparian buffer strips, bands of permanent vegetation that stop nitrates and phosphates from entering watercourses. But that land has to be prepared for the purpose first before developments can be allowed.

Natural England has told Shropshire Council that a River Clun Restoration Plan needs to be agreed before developments can be allowed to proceed with a system called 'nutrient neutrality', where developers have to prove that their schemes do not result in an increase in phosphate and nitrate levels in those watercourses beyond current levels.

Natural England has told the planning hearing that it has been working with Shropshire Council, the Environment Agency and Severn Trent on a vision for the River Clun catchment, moving towards developing a site restoration plan.

The River Clun is being used as a pilot to test out new powers under the Environment Act 2021 to develop Protected Site Strategies, which should help, in collaboration, to test and progress solutions for the challenges faced in this area.

On Tuesday the planning hearing being held at Shrewsbury Town FC heard that the river is so polluted that a 70 per cent reduction in phosphate and 90 per cent cut in nitrogen is needed.

The logjam has created a block on planning applications being decided. They usually have to be legally decided within a period of weeks.

But the hearing heard that Cooke Bros put in a plan for 38 dwellings including affordable homes and a new vehicular access on land north of Turnpike Meadow, High Street, Clun in August 2013.

Stuart Thomas, who was representing Cooke Bros, told the hearing that his clients were "patient" and "they have been waiting for a response for nine years, they are willing to wait longer."

Planning agents Berrys have told the council and Whitehall inspectors that they have proposed mitigation measures and the issues "should be resolved before the Local Plan is adopted.

"The issues have already caused considerable delay to the delivery of the saved allocation with the original outline application remaining undetermined since 2013," they wrote.

"It is vital that landowners and developers have clarity on the mitigation measures and fundings before the Local Plan is adopted rather than leaving it to an unspecified timescale."

The inspectors were told that the issues will be worked on as the local plan process continues.