The leader of Herefordshire Council has written to the Government urging it to bring in special measures to protect the river Wye from pollution.

On January 28, a full meeting of Herefordshire councillors voted unanimously to back bringing in a Water Protection Zone (WPZ) for the Wye catchment – a measure which only a government minister can implement.

Now Coun David Hitchiner has said in a letter to Rebecca Pow MP, minister for nature recovery and the domestic environment, that “existing regulatory arrangements are insufficient [to deal with the problem] within this catchment, and other measures will be necessary to restore it to favourable status”.


While previous estimates on the sources of the pollution had apportioned this equally between farming and sewage, the University of Lancaster now says that 71 per cent of it is from the area’s farms.

Coun Hitchiner said farmers “on the leading edge of farming innovation… would have little to fear from a WPZ as they are doing the right thing anyway”.

However, “A WPZ, or the planning for such a concept, would put pressure on all, including water companies and the supply chains our farms feed into, to play their part,” he said.

He acknowledged: “There is widespread disagreement about who is causing the problem and therefore what needs to be done to solve it.”

To address this, a planned Phosphate Commission will now bring all partners together, with the help of £100,000 financial support from the Government, he said.

Coun Hitchiner’s letter concluded: “I do not want to be known as a politician who sat on their hands while an ecological disaster unfolds. I trust you do not either.

“The power and ability to take the necessary action is much more in your hands than mine.”

A spokesperson for Ms Pow’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We are updating a comprehensive plan aimed at achieving environmental targets around the river Wye. We are allocating more funding to help farmers reduce pollution, and we have set up a cross-government taskforce which will identify methods for sustainable development around the river.

“Environment Agency teams will also be increasing farm visits around the river, focusing on high-risk locations and previously non-compliant businesses. There is wider work underway to improve water quality in Herefordshire though the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.”

Ms Pow will visit the river Wye to discuss these issues with the local community later this week, the spokesperson added.