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Welsh Government blow for bid to protect River Wye

04 May 2024 2 minute read
The the Warren at Hay-on-Wye is a popular bathing spot – despite the dangers. Photo via Google

Gavin McEwan, local democracy reporter

The Welsh Government has defended its decision not to grant special protection for the river Wye just even though campaigners say the polluted river waters are making bathers sick.

Friends of the River Wye (FRW) had applied to have the river at the Warren, Hay-on-Wye given bathing water status, given its documented popularity with river users.

This would have required the Welsh government to monitor and improve its water quality, and let potential swimmers know if the water was safe to swim in or not.

But the Welsh Government rejected its bid this week – because it would clash with environmental designations the river already has.

National Resources Wales

As it is both a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and special area of conservation (SAC), activities such as swimming, canoeing and even walking along the river must be assessed and granted consent by Natural Resources Wales.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Warren may still be considered for designation in future if the environmental impacts are properly assessed and consent for bathing is granted by NRW.”

They added: “We are committed to designating more inland bathing waters across Wales, but this will not be at the expense of our local wildlife and their habitats.”

Downgraded

The Wye’s conservation status was recently officially downgraded to “unfavourable: declining” due to pollution from manure and sewage.

FRW said in a tweet that the decision was “an incredibly frustrating result” that left it in “a maddening Catch 22”.

Writing about the decision in The Guardian, campaigner with the group Oliver Bullough said swimmers “regularly complain about getting upset stomachs after they venture into the water”.

Efforts have also been made to upgrade the conservation status of the Wye on the English side. But a bid by Herefordshire Council to have the whole river catchment named a Water Protection Zone was rejected by the government in 2022.

Cllr Louis Stark, who put forward the original motion and also one seeking bathing status for the river at Ross-on-Wye, said both “still remain the policy of the council”.

“The problems with the river run far deeper than just whether it is safe to swim in it, and we need to address these now,” he said.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
18 days ago

NRW very strict when it comes to enjoying the river but less so for keeping it clean and safe…

Glen
Glen
18 days ago

Why is it all about bathers, what about the fish and other wildlife that require clean, unpolluted water just to survive.

Paddy
Paddy
17 days ago
Reply to  Glen

Sewage makes bathers ill. It kills fish.

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
18 days ago

NRW does not appear to want to do the job it should be doing, ie monitoring and protecting natural resources. Monitoring and eventual prosecution (if other interventions fail) of polluters on the River Wye should be a priority. Instead they are trying to press ahead with a new National Park in NE Wales, which will soak up resources and place more strain on the natural world, which is the exact same arguement they use to prevent designation of the river bathing at the Warren.

hdavies15
hdavies15
17 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

NRW engaging in confused posturing, again. Must be taking their cue from their political masters. More useless with each passing day.

Iago
Iago
17 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

Why would making a national park out not pressure in the natural world exactly?

We can have a new national park and clean water if there was the will to use the powers they have available. It’s one an either or choice

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