On Tuesday 30th May, Sir Bill Wiggin, Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire, welcomed the Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey, to Hereford for a roundtable to address the state of the river Wye.

The roundtable was held at the De Koffie Pot at Hereford’s Left Bank and featured representatives from both the public and private sectors, as well as from the Welsh government and Herefordshire Council.

It was sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and coincided with Natural England downgrading the conservation status of the River Wye Special Area of Conservation.

Speaking after the event, Sir Bill said:

“It was a great pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State to Herefordshire and I am really glad that the Government has prioritised addressing this very complicated issue.”

“One challenge that we have in Herefordshire is that the Wyecatchment crosses the boundary between England and Wales and so is subject to separate jurisdictions, which is why it was important to have representatives from the Welsh government, Welsh Water, and Natural Resources Wales involved in these discussions.

“What was clear was that so far the solutions dreamed up by the previous Council of establishing a Cabinet Commission, a Nutrient Management Board, and a Nutrient Management Plan have sadly resulted in very little progress.

“I do not think that the Environment Agency and Natural England are offering any better solutions as we continue to wait for action from them they are pushing for greater bureaucracy and more funding.

“Farmers and the Commercial poultry sector are doing far more to cut their phosphate pollution and are mostly, extremely willing to do what is necessary and practical.

“Welsh Water reiterated their investment into storm overflows and to reduce using (unstripped of phosphate) biosolids on agricultural land in Herefordshire.  

“Meanwhile DEFRA are looking at ways that the housebuilding moratorium could be lifted by removing inappropriate constraints of the EU’s Habitat Regulations framework which is undermining so much good work.

“I am immensely confident that the Secretary of State will take the appropriate decisions to clean up our rivers and end the moratorium, which is penalising young people looking to buy houses and discouraging business in the county.

“There is still much to be done, like providing phosphate free fertiliser while encouraging plans for phosphate stripping technology but I am confident that this roundtable was an invaluable leap towards a long-term solution.”