Wetland scheme set to unblock river pollution development logjam

A phosphate credits scheme that is set to allow a ban on development close to the Shropshire border to be lifted looks set to be given the go-ahead.

The River Lugg at Leominster
The River Lugg at Leominster

Development is restricted in the area of the River Lugg, near Leominster, because of high levels of phosphate pollution in the river catchments.

On Thursday, Herefordshire Council will consider a new system of 'phosphate credits' by using a specially created wetland environment.

Work has already started on building the wetland, at Luston, near Leominster, which would take phosphates out of the water. It would then allow the pollution created by developments to be offset.

The new phosphate credits system has been slated to start in August and will increase as further wetlands arrive on stream. Credits will be allocated on the agreed first come, first served policy.

The council's cabinet is also being asked to set up a new Cabinet Commission on Restoring the Wye.

In January 2022 the council voted unanimously for a water protection zone, which was rejected by the Government because of the additional burdens it would place on business in the catchment.

A cabinet commission is therefore proposed to undertake a more strategic and systems-led review of river quality and in particular to consider how Herefordshire Council can use all the powers and influence available to it to progress the restoration of the Wye and Lugg.

Most development proposals across the north of Herefordshire have been stopped since July 2019 in order to protect the Lugg Special Area of Conservation, which includes the rivers Lugg, Frome and Arrow catchments. They needed to demonstrate ‘nutrient neutrality’ to be able to go ahead.

The council has bought a site close to the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water plant at Luston and obtained planning permission to create an integrated wetland.

The capital budget of £2m for the Integrated Wetlands project is funded through use of the council’s New Homes Bonus, and is supplemented by a £1m capital grant allocation from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership through the Getting Building Fund.

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