Countryside Stewardship offers solution to river pollution
Published March 17th, 2020
Herefordshire farmers and land managers are being urged to take advantage of environmental grant schemes which can bring additional investment onto the farm as well as improve the environment.
The Countryside Stewardship scheme is an important opportunity for farmers to assist in reducing potential pollution sources, particularly important in the River Lugg catchment area as it is currently failing to meet its target phosphate levels, despite significant reductions in phosphates levels.
Phosphates are of particular importance since the Dutch case in 2018 which put the emphasis on responsible bodies, in this case Herefordshire council as the responsible body for the Wye Nutrient Management Plan, to make sure they meet their habitat management objectives.
As a result of this Herefordshire Council has put on hold any on new development for fear of increasing the problem.
“There is already a shortfall in housing supply in Herefordshire and this curb on development is making it worse,” said Ben Corbett, partner and chartered surveyor with Berrys at Hereford.
“It also closes off opportunities for farmers to invest in diversification opportunities that are becoming increasingly important for farmers to maintain viable farming businesses in the future.”
Changing Management measures may reduce pollution in the river. Grants offering support for capital investments into items such as slurry stores are also available.
“Existing farming and land uses are seen as part of the problem but changes to practices can be part of the solution,” Ben said.
In other areas, schemes to maintain drinking water quality such as STEPS scheme through Severn Trent water, also offer opportunities to assist in reducing nutrient run off such as Phosphates as the options are aimed at reducing soil particle run off which contains nutrients and pesticide molecules.
“Farmers should consider opportunities available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for grants offering capital works to cover muck stores, concrete farmyards and other potential sources of pollution. They can take up stewardship management options such as buffer strips and move away from crops that might cause run off into watercourses, streams and rivers.”
He said these changes will complement investment from Welsh Water to improve the output from sewage works and other areas.
Where opportune, farmers can also work with developers and organisations such as Wye & Usk Foundation to assist in the creation of small areas of developed wetlands downstream of sewage works which are seen as one of the long term solutions to reduce phosphates coming into the River Lugg. Farm Herefordshire (http://wyecatchement.org/farm-herefordshire) can help farmers with best farming practices.
Despite the pollution worries there is still opportunity for development in the area. Berrys planning consultant Graham Clark has worked with clients to progress planning applications and development proposals in the Lugg catchment that meet the required criteria to enable development in the current situation.
A positive Appropriate Assessment will enable development to proceed where impacts are neutral ie where avoidance/mitigation measures included in the plan counterbalance any phosphate increase.
Discharges to drainage fields in the determined zone would be unlikely to reach the river, if the following criteria are in place:
- The drainage field is more than 50m from the designated site boundary or sensitive interest feature and;
- The drainage field is more than 50m from any surface water feature e.g. ditch, drain, watercourse, and;
- The drainage field is in an area with a slope no greater than 15 per cent, and;
- The drainage field is in an area where the high water table groundwater depth is at least 2m below the surface at all times and;
- There are no other hydrological pathways which would expedite the transport of phosphorous e.g. fissured geology, flooding or shallow soil.