Natural Resources Wales is yet to confirm whether they have found environmental damage to the river Wye in its latest round of assessments, despite indicating to Fish Legal in November 2022 that 11 waterbodies in the catchment have potentially been downgraded.
Fish Legal first notified Natural Resources Wales (NRW) that environmental damage is being caused by Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs) in Wales in June 2020 and again in 2021. Relying on data from 2009 to 2015, NRW concluded in 2022 that there is no evidence of a deterioration or environmental damage linked to the industry. However, NRW later admitted that several Wye waterbodies had potentially deteriorated between 2015 – 2021 and that investigations into the reasons for the deterioration were being “prioritised”. Until those investigations are concluded, NRW say it is not prepared to confirm that the downgrades are “real”.
Natural England this week announcing a downgrade in the overall condition of the River Wye and Lugg designated sites to ‘unfavourable declining’ following a small-scale assessment looking at four specific features.
Justin Neal, Solicitor at Fish Legal said,
“It is interesting that Natural England has come out this week to announce that their assessments show that protected plants and wildlife in the River Wye are in decline. Yet we have radio silence from Natural Resources Wales. It is quite extraordinary that NRW are saying to us that they have evidence of potential downgrades in Wales, but they are not ready yet to confirm whether they are “real”. This new ‘reality’ test that NRW has introduced has no basis in law.”
“We can understand why NRW want to delay making a decision about whether or not they have found a deterioration on the Wye. Because if they have found evidence of environmental damage, under the Environmental Damage Regulations they have a duty to investigate poultry producers in the catchment and require them to prevent further pollution and, where possible, to undertake remediation work. In short, they’d have to do their job and regulate the industry.”
Fish Legal has been pursuing a number of legal actions to address ongoing pollution in the River Wye, including challenging planners’ failure to properly assess the effect of tonnes of additional poultry manure that will be turned into digestate and spread on land in the catchment.
Last week, Powys Council said publicly that it had not granted permission for any new poultry units in the Wye catchment area since Fish Legal’s case against them in March 2022.