The idea is that the wetlands at Luston, north of Leominster, will be filled with plants that will suck up the nutrients from the waste water and stop it ending up in the local rivers.
Herefordshire Council believes that the scheme will allow developments to resume in the area, where they have been banned over pollution concerns in the River Lugg catchment area.
Most development proposals across the north of the county have been stopped since July 2019 in order to protect the Lugg Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which includes the rivers Lugg, Frome and Arrow catchments. They needed to demonstrate ‘nutrient neutrality’ to be able to go ahead.
Herefordshire County Council's cabinet yesterday (Thursday) agreed to make progress on introducing a Phosphate Credits scheme. Developers will be able to pay for wetlands in order to offset pollution from their schemes.
The council has bought a site close to the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) plant at Luston and obtained planning permission to create an Integrated Wetland.
A legal agreement is being entered into to receive waste water from the Luston Plant into the integrated Wetland.
An application has been made to the Environment Agency for the necessary Waste Permit, which will need to be in place before planting begins.
Cabinet gave the green light for Council officers to continue preparing for the commencement of trading of credits but not to proceed with the sale of credits until a further report has been provided to Cabinet.
Coucillor David Hitchiner, leader of Herefordshire Council, said: “We recognise that it has been a very difficult time for developers and also people looking to buy homes, and I would like to thank everybody affected for their patience. This is a ground breaking solution to tackling a national problem; Herefordshire is pioneering a global first in the use of Integrated Wetlands to address phosphate pollution and offset development.
“The progress that has been made is solid. We have identified two further sites in addition to Luston, we are actively looking for more and are welcoming proposals from developers.
“In addition to unlocking nutrient neutral development and improving water quality in the River Lugg, the wetlands will support the Council’s commitment to addressing the climate and ecological emergency. The wetlands will become excellent wildlife habitats and will increase biodiversity.”
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.
Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches LEP, welcomed the progress. “This is a truly innovative project which will help preserve and enhance our environment whilst allowing the levels of development needed to grow the Marches economy in a sustainable way. We look forward to working with Herefordshire as the scheme continues.”