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Tory MP blasts Welsh and English agencies’ failure to work together to tackle river Wye’s pollution problems

04 Jan 2022 3 minutes Read
The River Wye (Pixabay) and inset, Jesse Norman MP (LDRS)

Gavin McEwan, local democracy reporter

A Conservative MP has blasted Welsh and English river agencies’ failure to work together to tackle the river Wye’s pollution problems.

Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman said officials’ failure to work together on the river, which runs through Wales and England and forms the boundary between them for many miles, was “deplorable”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Norman said: “What I have seen, having spent two years working on this, has been a lack of leadership a lack of integrated cross-border care.

“Part of the problem is the Wye runs across the English-Welsh border. The agencies involved – Natural Resources Wales, Natural England and the Environment Agency – have done a deplorable job so far in their failure to come together with a single all-river action plan.”

He said that while there was “fantastic” work being done by individuals to improve the river, “there’s got to be some leadership from the regulators and agencies, and that has to be supported by the government as well”.

Pressed by host Mishal Husain over his refusal late last year to back an amendment to the Environment Bill that would have penalised water companies that allowed untreated sewage into rivers, Mr Norman said: “There was a lot of misunderstanding about this.

“The Lords’ amendment was tremendous in principle but unfortunately not enforceable.”

Instead, a new set of rules were eventually put into the legislation which were a “vast improvement” on this, Mr Norman said.

“Sewage is 25 per cent of the problem,” he added. “The real problem is the embedded phosphates (from farming) and that requires monitoring and enforcement, which means money and cross-border leadership.

“That’s not what we’ve seen so far, and we need it.”

‘Focus’

BBC climate editor Justin Rowlatt had earlier in the same programme reported from the Wye, saying that one reason for the rise of pollution in the river has been a doubling in the number of chickens being raised in the area from 10 million to 20 million over the last five years.

One resident, Angela Jones, told him she had seen the problem increasing markedly over this time, adding: “This river, which is supposed to be the nation’s favourite, is literally being used as an open sewer.”

Justin Rowlatt’s report highlighted local efforts to improve the river’s condition.

But Jesse Norman said: “I am much less confident than Justin and his report made it seem.

“This is a really big long-term problem, and I do not think that it’s right to strike a note of confidence at this stage.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We’ve recently secured a share of national Government funding which means there will be a four-fold increase in the regulatory activity on the Wye.

“Our teams will increase farm visits, focusing on high-risk locations and previously non-compliant businesses. We will also be able to carry out a detailed investigation into the management of poultry manure across the catchment and enhance monitoring at high-risk locations.”

Natural England and Natural Resources Wales were also approached for comment.


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Glen
Glen
6 months ago

He’s right, NRW and the EA are equally useless.

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

This matter is far from new – indeed if one excuses the pun ‘ a long running one ‘…and Jesse Norman and his previous colleagues from the Conservative and the Liberal Dem parties as local MPs are aware of the many reasons why. a whole range of issues have caused this including farming practice, unwise planning permissions and no strategic leadership on the east side off Offas Dyke plus of course the lack of substantial mitigation measures in regulating flow in certain areas up river – to compensate for times of high run off following increased rainfall in the mountains… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

So Conservatives voting to dump effluent into our rivers , rivers that flow into & through both nations as highlighted didn’t have an affect on water quality?

If we’re Jessie Norman I’d question his own Tory MPs decision to pollute rather than pontificating.

Grayham Jones
6 months ago

It’s the English government dumping the rubbish in the welsh water they should be responsible for the cleaning of the water

Richard
Richard
6 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Evidence plesse ?

Dim problem
Dim problem
5 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

All those poultry farms in Powys will be amazed to discover they’re actually part of the English government.

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
6 months ago

The English were the ones to vote dumping poison into their own rivers, right?

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
6 months ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

Mr Norman joined Bill Wiggins and Fay Jones in voting not to limit sewage dumping. They at least work in a cross-border co-operative manner to wreck the Wye along with David TC Davies.
Not just the English but Welsh Tories too.

Last edited 6 months ago by Kerry Davies
hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

This big Jesse is very reluctant to attribute responsibility to his mates in the corporate sector. Glibly citing 25% is neither here or there. Is it 25% of assessed damage or 25% of incidents ? Sly digs at agri don’t help much either, as his cronies are often found among those who engage in large scale ventures – like chicken ranches – that are ill equipped to manage the effluent streams they create. Like many of his team mates he probably sees nothing wrong with the horrendous large scale farming models commonly found in USA and other countries, as they… Read more »

William George Thomas Thomas
William George Thomas Thomas
5 months ago

Jess Norman is a person with very firmly fitted blinkers. Every political party since the sell off of the water companies have failed to ensure enforcement and continuous improvement of the legislation and standards for the treatment of sewage. The vast building program that has unfolded since 1979 has contributed to the problem without any real and substantial financial contributions from the developers to to increased sewage loads. In my area the water company admitted in 2010 that the Water Model used to substantiate the capacity needed for treatment purposes was so flawed that it was less than useless. They… Read more »

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