Shropshire Star

Phosphate pollution removal scheme near Shropshire border could pave way for 4,000 new homes

A council scheme to reduce high levels of phosphate in water could lead to the development of up to 4,000 houses in communities close to the south Shropshire border.

The Luston wetlands site

That's the view of Herefordshire Council which has developed a wetland near Luston, south of Woofferton, near Ludlow, to capture and remove phosphate from waters of the River Lugg catchment.

The development 'credits' created by the removal of phosphate under Herefordshire Council's Nutrient Mitigation Strategy could then be used to allow for new homes in the Leominster area.

Natural England had advised Herefordshire Council that the levels of phosphate in the Lugg sub-catchment meant that any new housing development must fully offset its phosphate load.

This placed plans to build nearly 2,000 homes in jeopardy until a solution could be found.

Herefordshire Council says the Luston Wetland is now complete and has secured credits for 1,112 new homes.

It has been partly funded by developers, with New Homes Bonus and Local Enterprise Partnership funding also involved.

The council has now announced that it been successful in securing £1.9m further funding from the Department of Levelling Up for Homes and Communities for two further phases of mitigation measures, including a new wetland at Tarrington.

A council spokesperson said these mitigation measures have good prospects of securing sufficient credits to meet housing growth in the Lugg area over the next decade.

The scheme has been designed to ensure that costs are borne by central government and developers so that no costs fall on local council tax payers.

The wetland scheme also contributes to improve water quality alongside an expectation that water companies and agriculture will reduce pollution under the "polluter pays" principle.

Councillor Elissa Swinglehurst, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “It is fantastic to see the work already achieved on nutrient neutrality in the county, and agree an approach for the future that will deliver a minimum of 3,471 new homes in the Lugg catchment area.

"This helps to close the gap on housing needs identified within our Local Plan and enable economic development in a significant proportion of North Herefordshire.

“Phases two and three of the scheme will see costs met by additional grant from central government or developer fees, causing no additional burden on local council taxpayers, and 20 per cent of the phosphate reduction will be set aside for ‘river betterment’.

"Of course, we still expect water companies and agriculture to address their own levels of pollution.

"Together with our partner organisations, we share a strong commitment to improving our environmental sustainability and achieving carbon neutrality. This stronger stewardship of the county’s natural resources will help us to uphold our robust environmental commitments while delivering the development that the county needs.”