The Welsh Government has announced that a new action plan has been agreed, as they look to tackle river pollution.
This news follows the holding of a summit at the beginning of March, bringing senior representatives from key stakeholders together to discuss the idea of a strategic, joined up approach to reducing phosphorus pollution. Attendees including representatives from regulators, water companies, developers, local government, farming unions, academia and environmental sectors.
The plan, titled the Relieving Pressures on SAC River Catchments to Support Delivery of Affordable Housing Action Plan, follows a number main themes, with these including:
- The need for a joined-up approach alongside fit for purpose governance and oversight, allowing better support for decision making regarding failing SAC rivers
- The need for better use of natural solutions, allowing for the delivery of multiple benefits
- The need to work alongside the agriculture sector to identify solutions that reduce excess nutrients in soil and SAC rivers
- The delivery of short-term solutions that address planning restrictions
- Developing a unified nutrient calendar that can aid planning decisions, with this having the ability to take catchment-level data, local features and needs into account
- Unifying the approach catchment consenting in failing rivers
- Developing an increased understanding of practical measures within catchments, with this potentially being provided by Nutrient Trading.
Mark Drakeford, First Minister, said:
“We said we would bring people together and we brought people together; we said we would develop an action plan and we have developed an action plan – we are a government committed to our rivers.
“At this year’s summit, we discussed the ned to be able to move at speed and accelerate actions, to strip away any unnecessary complexity and provide certainty and consistent messaging across the range of different challenges.
“We need to bring forward, quickly, mitigation measures to create headroom to support sustainable development now whilst also securing the longer-term investment to restore our rivers.
“I am confident that delivering the actions identified will allow housing development in the affected SAC river catchments to restart.
“There is no single measure which will solve this problem and even a contribution of measures will take time to undo the cumulative harm of the past.
“Across the Welsh Government we are committed to improving the quality of our rivers across Wales and the River Basin Management plans, published last year, outline the actions required to allow our rivers to thrive.
“Although there have been improvements, we need to take an integrated catchment approach focussing on multi-sector co-operation and nature-based solutions to drive water quality improvements.
“Only by combining the actions of every sector can we tackle multiple risks impacting out lakes, rivers and streams and deliver real improvements to the quality of our waterways.
“I would like to thank everyone who took part in the summit – we all have a role to play in improving the quality of water in our rivers and reducing phosphorus pollution.”