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Phosphate material planning consideration for schemes near Wye and Usk rivers

PLANNERS will have to consider the level of phosphates a development might produce, in planning applications near both the rivers Wye and Usk.

Last week the Welsh Government environment body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) published new stricter targets for phosphate levels in rivers that are Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

Of the nine in Wales, two flow in Powys, the rivers Wye and Usk.

Following the review, NRW said that phosphorus breaches are widespread within Welsh SAC rivers with over 60 per cent of water bodies failing against the challenging targets set.

The river with the highest level of phosphate failures was the Usk with 88 per cent of its water bodies failing to hit the target.

At Powys County Council’s planning committee meeting on Friday, January 22, Professional planning lead officer, Peter Morris, explained what the changes mean for developers in the county.

Mr Morris said:

“NRW has published interim planning guidance that they expect to be followed now in relation to development within the Wye SAC catchment and the others.

“There has always been an expectation that development connects to sewers.

“The difficulty is, not all public wastewater facilities have phosphate stripping abilities in them.

“We’re clarifying that with Welsh Water, I think it’s only the Llandrindod and Talgarth treatment works that have phosphate stripping at the moment.”

Mr Morris explained that Welsh Water had started a five-year improvement plan and had already earmarked upgrading facilities in Rhayader, Builth Wells, Presteign and Norton, but more information would be needed about the Usk catchment area.

Mr Morris said: “In planning speak, we have a new material consideration.

He added that live planning applications, that have not been decided yet would need to consider the impact of phosphate.

He also explained that he had met with planning agents, and had told them that they would have to deal with the issue “up front” before a planning application is submitted, and not “hope it goes away.”

“The blunt message is that it is going to impact on development proceeding,” said Mr Morris.

Pollution in the Wye had led to calls to stop approving intensive poultry farm planning applications until research is done on their environmental impact.

Cllr David Price, (Llafanfawr – Independent) said:

“It was illuminating to see that there’s no connection formed between phosphate problems and agriculture.

“That statement is probably long overdue.

“The details have shown there is a phosphate issue in rivers where there is no proliferation of poultry units or intensive agriculture.”

Cllr Jonathan Wilkinson (Meifod – Conservative) added:

“This would undoubtedly have an impact on agricultural development often unfairly blamed for elevated nitrates and phosphate levels.”

Cllr Roger Williams (Felinfach – Liberal Democrat) said that people who have raised concerns about planning applications for intensive farming units have pointed more fears of nitrogen and ammonium levels, rather than phosphates.

“I’m disappointed they have not looked at this,” said Cllr Williams.

Members of the Planning Committee are expected to receive training on the issue and further discussions will take place with NRW, to fully understand the implications of the targets.

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