Important Latest News – A phosphates briefing update has been prepared on the challenging environmental issue of water quality in both the River Wye and River Usk. This paper focuses on the implications for Monmouthshire in terms of development proposals and the development of the Replacement Local Development Plan (RLDP). 

Following new evidence about the environmental impacts of phosphate in watercourses Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have adopted tighter targets for the water quality of watercourses and have conducted an assessment of the 9 riverine Special Areas of Conservation in Wales.   This assessment has established that phosphorus breaches are widespread within Welsh SAC rivers with over 60% of waterbodies failing against the challenging targets set. 

Within Monmouthshire it was identified that within the River Usk 88% of the river’s water bodies failed to meet the required target and within the River Wye 67% failed to meet the required target.  As a result of this failure NRW have issued detailed planning guidance to ensure that the environmental capacity of the rivers does not deteriorate any further.  Any proposed development within the catchment areas of the rivers that might increase phosphate levels need to clearly evidence within a planning application that the development can demonstrate phosphate neutrality or betterment in its design and/or its contribution to the water body.  In most cases there will be limited capacity to connect to the public sewerage system and an alternative solution will have to be found.  This requirement on drainage considerations will impact on all development that increases the volume or concentration of wastewater. 

A plan to show the catchment area of the rivers can be found here

Drainage proposals for development proposals need to be given significant consideration within these catchment areas and prior to an application being submitted to the Local Planning Authority and it is encouraged that customers engage with our pre-application advice service to discuss the acceptability of proposals https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/planning/before-an-application/ .

NRW  have provided planning guidance for developers which outlines what type of development is unlikely to have an impact on phosphate levels in the watercourses.  This guidance can be found here.  Detailed information regarding this matter can also be found directly on NRW’s website : –  https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/news-and-events/news/tighter-phosphate-targets-change-our-view-of-the-state-of-welsh-rivers/?lang=en

As the guidance outlines unfortunately if the planning application cannot evidence that the development proposal would result in phosphate neutrality or betterment the Local Planning Authority would not be able to support the application given the unacceptable impact on the water quality of the rivers which are sensitively designated as special areas of conservation.

This new guidance does have significant implications on development proposals and we are working with NRW and our biodiversity officers to ensure that we are able to ensure that we progress development proposals that do not harm the environmental capacity of our watercourses.  As you can appreciate case officers are absorbing the implications for current planning applications and finding solutions that comply with the requirements of the new interim planning guidance with NRW.    We will update this page with further information as soon as we are able and we will be regularly updating this web page to keep you informed of progress.