AN ANGLERS’ group has launched a legal move against a government agency that it says hasn’t done enough to stop farm pollution in the river Wye.
Fish Legal has made the complaint to the Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales over what it claims is Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) failure to meet its statutory responsibility to protect the Wye and its tributaries over the Welsh border.
The group, formerly the Anglers’ Conservation Association, alerted NRW in June 2020 and again in 2021 about the environmental damage to the river systems caused, it claimed, by the area’s many intensive poultry units.
NRW initially responded that there was no evidence of a deterioration or environmental damage linked to the industry – based on data from 2009 to 2015.
But late last year, the agency conceded that based on more recent data, seven watercourses in the Wye catchment [see map] had indeed deteriorated on phosphate pollution and other key measures of river health linked to farming.
“Natural Resources Wales should have been properly monitoring, investigating and then acting to tackle the root causes of pollution affecting the River Wye,” Fish Legal solicitor Justin Neal said.
“Yet, they have no proper plans in place and there is no sign that they will be taking regulatory action to restore river health any time soon.”
Fish Legal previously succeeded in a case brought with anglers in Yorkshire in which the High Court ruled that the Government’s and the Environment Agency’s river improvement plans in England were unlawful.
The group’s head of practice Penelope Gane said this “showed environmental regulators have failed to grasp the full extent of their duties when it comes to restoring river health”.
“We are now exposing the same failures in Wales and hope this will be a turning point for the fortunes of the river Wye,” she said.
Meanwhile across the Herefordshire border, Friends of the Upper Wye tweeted earlier this week it had recorded its highest-ever phosphate levels at Bredwardine Bridge east of Hay-on-Wye.
“The sheer volume of nutrients this represents is frightening,” the group said.