Commission set up to address river water quality issues

A council has set up a powerful new body to address issues of water quality in rivers near the south Shropshire border.

The River Lugg at Leominster
The River Lugg at Leominster

Herefordshire Council’s cabinet is setting up a commission to explore how it can use all of its powers and influence to address and restore water quality in the rivers Wye and Lugg.

The commission will deliver as much work as possible before March 2023, says the council.

The River Lugg flows through Leominster and is currently exceeding pollution limits which has impacted on development in the area. The River Wye is now also close to unfavourable status, says the council.

Councillor John Harrington, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said: "We’re committed to doing all we can to address the issues of water quality in our rivers, to protect and enhance these important wildlife habitats.

“We’ve already been extremely proactive in introducing projects to both improve water quality and enable growth, including our pioneering integrated wetlands which provide a natural way to take nutrients out of sewerage waste water before it reaches our rivers, and a phosphate calculator so developers can calculate the amount of nutrients their proposed development will add to the watercourse.

“The commission will take a more strategic view of what can be achieved by the three councils who share the Lugg and Wye. Our statutory agencies, the Environment Agency, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales are responsible, in legal and governance terms, for the health and protection of our rivers but they have struggled to meet the demand with the considerable reduction in budgets and resources from central government.

"We’ve stepped up as local authority and are working in collaboration with other agencies and neighbouring counties to develop a new plan for the Wye with clear accountability and strong governance arrangements capable of delivering restoration.

“We will be drawing on national expertise to inform what we do and to ensure we are doing all we can to address this vitally important issue of restoring our rivers back to health.

"We cannot stand by while our rivers are struggling, not just because of the impacts that restrictions have brought our precious county building industry but because we must restore the ecology and biodiversity of our beautiful Lugg and Wye.”

Both the River Wye and River Lugg are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are also Special Areas of Conservation.

Both rivers are currently struggling with high levels of nutrients, mainly phosphates, which affect water quality and alter the delicate eco-balance.

Natural England ensures the ecology of watercourses remains in good health and sets limits for the level of nutrients.

The cabinet commission will take a strategic view of all the issues involved in addressing river water quality.

As well as drawing on national experience and expertise, the commission will liaise closely with established agencies and the wider sector groups adding value to the work already underway, and with neighbouring counties and partner organisations.

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