Herefordshire’s phosphate credit scheme is enabling 3,500 new homes in the county that would not otherwise have been built, it has been claimed.

Cabinet member for environment and deputy leader of the council Elissa Swinglehurst said its “pioneering” scheme, in which new wetlands at water treatment plants compensate for the extra water pollution from new homes entering the protected Lugg and Wye river systems, “has loosened the death grip of the housing moratorium”, in place since 2019.

The bill for this “is predominantly paid by housebuilders at the rate of £14,000 per kg [of mitigated phosphate]”, she said.


As well as its operating wetland at Luston north of Leominster, the council now plans to create two more at Tarrington and Titley, to buy land for a third, and to retrofit septic tanks in schools, helped by a £1.76-million grant for the government.

Luston is enabling 1,112 now houses, with a further 2,359 to be released by the next phases of the project, largely enabling new housing targets for the area to be met, Coun Swinglehurst said.

But she acknowledged the contribution of new housing to the phosphate problem in the county's rivers “is less than one per cent”, and mitigation “is not going to fix it”.

Pay farmers instead?

Cabinet member for transport Coun Philip Price, a farmer in the county, said on this: “Agriculture is always suggested as causing the problem.

“One wonders whether not putting phosphate on agricultural land would be worth £14,000 a kilo. Because if it is, you might get more takers on this.”


Local ward member Coun Dan Hurcomb said that while Luston residents were “delighted” with the new wetland, “lots of them want to see and enjoy its nature and biodiversity”.

Green group leader Coun Ellie Chowns said the council was focussing only on the “tiny” role of new housing in the river pollution problem.

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“Why doesn’t it talk about the need for a water protection zone, or legal requirements on all sources of pollution, or lobbying for more enforcement?” she asked.

Independents for Herefordshire leader Coun Liz Harvey added on this: “There hasn’t been any progress on the 80 per cent of the problem caused by agriculture.”

Coun Swinglehurst replied: “A lot is happening on this. Farmers are where the solution to this sits. It’s a conversation I have with ministers every opportunity I get.”