A Herefordshire builder says he has been forced to close his business due to the “moratorium” on construction over a large area of the county.

Leslie Fancourt had hoped that converting a disused former coach house in Lugwardine into two homes would sustain his firm, ThreeShires Building.

But when he put the proposal to planners over two years ago, Herefordshire had already halted schemes in the river Lugg catchment unless they could demonstrate “nutrient neutrality” – that they wouldn’t add to river pollution.

Because the Coach House hadn’t been lived in for many years, new homes would create “additional flows to the foul sewer”, the council said.


“We weren’t told about the moratorium at the time, they were secretive about it,” Mr Fancourt said, calling the measure “disproportionate” and “a knee-jerk reaction” to a European environmental ruling, which has impacted many English local authorities.

“People’s livelihoods are at stake,” he said. “Builders are in mobile or rented homes waiting to get building, while others have moved out of the county.

“It’s a huge lack of revenue for Hereford, and the council doesn’t seem to have a way out of it.”


The Lugwardine project “was to be my swan song”, the 67-year-old said. “But there comes a point when you have to say ‘enough is enough’, to bite the bullet rather than face bankruptcy.”

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said the council “has been at the forefront of national efforts to find a local solution that enables some development to continue”.

The council introduced a integrated wetlands programme, intended to yield “phosphate credits” for builders last August. But it is “aware that the demand for these credits is likely to outstrip supply”, the council spokesperson said.

Hereford Times:

Herefordshire’s cabinet member for economy and environment Coun Ellie Chowns said the issue “devastating effect on a really significant part of our economy”, but “is unbelievably frustrating as we don’t have direct control over it”.

The council’s phosphate credit scheme “is only ever going to be on a small scale and isn’t itself tackling the problem at its source, which is largely diffuse agricultural pollution”, she said.

Councillors have also been pressing, so far unsuccessfully, for the Wye to be declared a “water protection zone” which Coun Chowns called “the regulatory lever that will concentrate minds sufficiently to take action to actually reduce pollution”.

“Until that happens, we and the construction industry are stuck,” she said.

What are your thoughts?

You can send a letter to the editor to have your say by clicking here.

Letters should not exceed 250 words and local issues take precedence.