Affordable housing developments grind to a halt due to phosphate restrictions
Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter
Guidance on phosphate levels in Welsh rivers has brought development in Ceredigion to a halt, according to councillors in discussions with Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
NRW’s stricter guidance on phosphate levels in Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers – including the Teifi – and the impact on Ceredigion have been raised before, but this week Ceredigion county councillors had chance to grill a representative from the organisation.
A special thriving communities overview and scrutiny committee met on Friday 11 March and spent two hours discussing phosphate issues with Gavin Bown, who apologised for not being able to join a previous committee meeting on the matter where Dwr Cymru Welsh Water attended.
There are more than 500 homes in allocated sites – 114 of which would be affordable – that cannot be built at the moment due to the phosphate restrictions and the need for mitigation measures to be put in place.
Mr Bown said that the new water quality standards are around 50 to 80 per cent stricter and further guidance, with emphasis on specific issues such as agriculture, are due for release shortly.
Nutrient management boards set up to consider ways of improving water quality and lowering phosphates are due to meet next week with Ceredigion’s first meeting – chaired by cabinet member for economy and regeneration Cllr Rhodri Evans – on March 17, the same days as Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire’s boards.
Work was underway, and would be a collaborative process, to reduce phosphates, the committee heard with projects to focus on mine water and a £9m Rivers for LIFE project that includes the Teifi, development of nutrient calculators, reed bed development and improvements to riverbanks.
Cllr Dai Mason said he was surprised that experts at Aberystwyth University working on experimental research in solving phosphate problems without chemicals had not been approached and Mr Bown said he would explore that option further.
Others raised concerns about the introduction of the levels without consultation and guidance or management measures in place which had an “unfair” impact on rural areas.
When marine SAC requirements are introduced around 90 per cent of Ceredigion won’t see any development until the mitigation measures are in place, added Cllr Evans.
While Cllr Keith Evans asked had there been consideration of the “damage” being done to the local economy and growth by “putting a stop to development anywhere along the Teifi river.”
Committee chairman Cllr Marc Davies said it was a “very complex topic and it will be a challenge to you and ourselves.”
Mr Bown said: “I realise the strength of you statements and the importance of getting a rapid solution.”
He said the points raised by the committee would be fed back to NRW and the committee also agreed it would send a letter itself to reiterate the issues.
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