Jesse Norman (Conservative - Hereford and South Herefordshire)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with the Nutrient Taskforce on phosphate pollution in the river Wye.
Rebecca Pow - Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
2 December 2021
The Wye catchment area is internationally important for biodiversity, principally due to the wide range of rare river wildlife. It is vitally important that we achieve the right balance to allow sustainable development to continue and protect our most important natural habitats.
A cross border taskforce focussing on the Wye Catchment was convened by Herefordshire Council in September. The taskforce further supports the ongoing work of the Nutrient Management Board and its associated Technical Advisory Group to find effective solutions.
The board meets quarterly to identify and review actions that achieve the phosphorus conservation target of the River Wye Special Area of Conservation. The primary mechanism for achieving this will be through the delivery of the Nutrient Management Plan, the first draft of which has been published.
In the short term, and alongside the work of the Nutrient Pollution Taskforce, Natural England has been working with Herefordshire Council to enable housing projects that can demonstrate nutrient neutrality to be able to proceed. This has included funding put in place by the Council for both a wetlands scheme, which will have a series of eight interconnected wetlands to support approx. 1500 houses, and the commissioning of the 'Interim Delivery Plan' which includes a Phosphate Calculator, thus enabling small scale developments to be unlocked.
I also attended a productive roundtable meeting on 13 July with Minister Pincher of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and local staff from the Environment Agency, Natural England and Herefordshire County Council to discuss this issue.