A NEW multimillion-pound long-term plan has been launched to protect and restore the river Wye in Herefordshire.

The River Wye Action Plan includes up to £35 million in Government funding for poultry manure management equipment and the appointment of a local "river champion".

Large farms along the Wye will be given grant support for on-farm poultry manure combusters, essentially to burn manure into ash.

Defra says combusting the manure will provide a source of renewable energy and reduce risk to the environment.

New combustion units will need approval and "robust assessments for protection of the environment and health".

Farming minister Sir Mark Spencer said: "The river Wye is important. Our plan will reduce nutrients entering the river, mostly by helping farmers transition to technology to combust poultry litter and help farmers share nutrients with their neighbours.

"I'm also pleased to announce the appointment of Anthea McIntyre, who will spearhead government action on the ground to improve the health of the river."

Jesse Norman, MP for South Herefordshire, said: "I have been campaigning for an action plan and joined-up approach to cleaning up the river Wye for years now, and this is a turning point for the river.

"The action plan recognises the brilliant efforts of volunteer groups up and down the river.

"Now the challenge is for us all, including farmers, Welsh Water and Herefordshire Council, working with the new river champion, to respond quickly."

"River champion" appointed

Farming minister Sir Mark Spencer has appointed Anthea McIntyre as "river champion" for the Wye.

In this role, Ms McIntyre, who lives in the catchment area, will bring together organisations and partners to restore and protect the Wye, including by supporting  a long-term catchment plan.

Ms McIntyre said: "I'm honoured to be appointed as the river Wye champion and look forward to working collaboratively with interested parties to ensure the river is restored and protected for future generations."


Potential lawsuit

Last month, Manchester-based law firm Leigh Day announced it was building a case against poultry giant Avara Foods to try to win compensation for people and businesses in the river Wye catchment who may have been hit by high levels of water pollution.

Avara Foods has dismissed the news and contested allegations.