THE response for the agencies which oversee the quality of the river Wye has been criticised by Hereford’s MP amid rising pollution levels.

Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman said agencies responsible for the Wye admitted river Wye pollution was a “pressing issue”, but were not taking a leading role in resolving the issues.

The level of phosphates in the river had been found to fail environmental standards, with Mr Norman scolding Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency for their response.

Natural Resources Wales research showed the section of the Wye from Walford Brook to Bigsweir Bridge was failing standards, but it straddles the border and was not seen as failing by Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The guidance for setting water quality targets in rivers that were designated for nature conservation is the same in England and Wales, but different targets are set depending on the characteristics of the river and the technical feasibility of achieving the targets in each section.

Hereford Times: Jesse Norman is not happy with how agencies have responded to river Wye pollution concerns. Picture: Parliament Jesse Norman is not happy with how agencies have responded to river Wye pollution concerns. Picture: Parliament

There are several water bodies which span the border and have targets in both countries, but the section from Walford Brook to Bigsweir Bridge is the only one where the targets do not align.

Mr Norman said staff from the agencies had helpfully supported the Wye Phosphates Working Group that he set up last year to press for an integrated plan to tackle this issue.

But while agencies said the pollution in the Wye was a “pressing issue” and emphasised a “strong desire” for joint support, he felt that had not yet been achieved.

Mr Norman said in a letter to agency chiefs that responses were “seriously inadequate”, and said it was an issue there was no lead agency to tackle the problems as it needed public leadership.

“It is not acceptable for your organisations, as the three public bodies charged by law with preservation of the environment and our natural resources across England and Wales, not to take a leadership role and to abdicate responsibility for this very serious issue,” he said.

He added: “You are responsible – and if you are not willing to take responsibility then that responsibility should be required of you.

“Yes, it may involve overlapping responsibilities and require some mutual coordination, but these are issues for you to solve.”

He said the issue could need budgetary support, but Mr Norman said he and his parliamentary colleagues were standing ready to help.

He wanted a meeting to be set up between the agencies, politicians, councillors and other parties to tackle the issues as part of a cross-agency taskforce.

High levels of phosphates in local rivers are believed to be due to run-off from farming and sewage treatment works, and the Environment Agency said it has been working with local farmers to identify problems and had been working with a range of stakeholders and partners, including those across the border.

Natural England echoed the Environment Agency, saying officials from across Government had been working closely together on the “complex problem” which would potentially call for action to be taken by a range of parties.”

Gavin Bown, head of Mid Wales operations said Natural Resources Wales, remained committed to tackling phosphate levels in the Wye and was actively seeking a co-ordinated approach to finding long term solutions to protect the river for future generations.

“The issue is complex, with no single cause and no single solution and so requires a coordinated multi-agency response,” he said.

Natural Resources Wales said it would start working at a “more local level” to better understands the pressures and solutions to each section of the Wye.