ANGLING body Fish Legal has called for proceedings to be launched against Natural Resources Wales (NRW) over failures to protect the River Wye from farm pollution.
The watchdog highlighted environmental damage to NRW in 2020 and again in 2021 caused, it reported, by the vast number of large poultry farms throughout the Wye valley. It complained to the Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales that NRW had failed in its statutory responsibility to protect river the system.
Natural Resources Wales had responded to the first two pollution reports by stating there was no evidence of a deterioration of water quality, referencing data from almost a decade ago.
In 2023, however, NRW admitted that recent data clearly showed phosphate pollution – a key indicator of agricultural contaminants – had caused water quality to deteriorate.
“The number of intensive poultry units in the Wye catchment has multiplied in recent years, all under the watchful eye of a regulator which clearly does not have a handle on the effect of the tonnes of poultry manure being generated and spread in the catchment of this iconic river,” said Fish Legal solicitor Justin Neal.
“Natural Resources Wales should have been properly monitoring, investigating and then acting to tackle the root causes of pollution affecting the River Wye. 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.”
Referring NRW to the Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales follows success in a strategically important case fought by Fish Legal with anglers in Yorkshire in which the High Court ruled that DEFRA and the Environment Agency’s river improvement plans in England were unlawful.
“As our recent successful legal challenge against the Government and the Environment Agency in England 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,” explained Penelope Gane, Fish Legal’s Head of Practice.
“This formal complaint is a key step for us and one which we hope will be a turning point for the fortunes of the river Wye”.