MORE needs to be done to tackle 'worryingly high' annual average levels of phosphates in the River Lugg.

That is the view of Councillor Felicity Norman who has seen data showing that at two points of the upper Lugg – at Cheaton Brook and at the confluence with the River Arrow – there are deteriorating levels of more than six and seven times the limit which have been set by the Environment Agency and Natural England.

She is now calling for the problem to be taken more seriously, amid concerns about the impact phosphates could have on the ecology of the river, on future development in the county and on tourism.

She said: "The data clearly shows that we have an annual average of six or seven times the limit and that really is a matter of concern. That's not to do with exceptional circumstances, that's a regular feed of phosphates into the river.

"The Lugg is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so, ecologically, it is hugely worrying."

One direct cause for concern that the council should have, she says, is the impact on future development and, less directly, tourism.

"I feel the council should take it much more seriously. They say it's being assessed through the Nutrient Management Plan and I am sure some good work is being done but it doesn't seem to be changing when considering the realities on the ground," she said, adding that the Minerals and Waste Plan which should also help address the matter is 'way off' being completed.

She also believes the issue should be on the council's risk register and wants a task and finish group set up to interview those with a view, responsibility or concern about the issue to get the problem properly assessed and for action to be taken.

In a statement, Herefordshire Council said the adopted Herefordshire Local Plan Core Strategy contains a range of policies which provide a framework to help deliver the Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) actions.

"This includes policies which deal with sustainable water management and seeks to ensure that water quality targets are not undermined. The policies are being used in determining planning applications and are being considered as ‘sound’ policies when tested at appeal," it said.

“The council continue to play an active role in the NMP process (with Councillor Philip Price as chairman of the NMP board). A successful joint Powys/Herefordshire Member seminar was arranged by Herefordshire Council in September 2016 and again in December 2016.

“The NMP action plan is currently being reviewed and a monitoring dashboard is being developed which will be publicly available once complete.”

The Farm Herefordshire initiative also aims to provide farmers with information and advice on how they can profitably farm and reduce their impact on nearby rivers and streams. The Environment Agency has also recently started using satellite and drone technology to identify agricultural sites where polluting run-off is most likely to arise.

Dane Broomfield from the Environment Agency said: “Addressing phosphate levels in our rivers is a real challenge for society, but it is important because rivers like the Wye and the Lugg are part of our natural infrastructure. By providing water for public consumption and supporting industry and agriculture they are just as vital to the economy as power, roads or railways. We need to ensure they are properly looked after so that they can continue to support the growth and wellbeing of the people who live, work and play in Herefordshire."

He added the agency is working with Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and other partner organisations to implement the Nutrient Management Plan for the Wye and Lugg.