LEP welcomes innovative project

June 8, 2022

The chair of the Marches LEP has welcomed progress on an innovative integrated wetlands scheme in Herefordshire.

Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet has been updated on the considerable progress that has been made on the Council’s pioneering Integrated Wetlands scheme, and agreed the framework for the introduction of Phosphate Credits to unlock the potential for Nutrient Neutral Development.

LEP chair Many Thorn MBE said the progress was good news for both the environment and development in the county.

In July 2019, the Council concluded that to protect the Lugg Special Area of Conservation (SAC), it was not possible to permit any development on the Lugg, Frome or Arrow catchments that did not demonstrate ‘nutrient neutrality’ – there being no likely significant effects on the Lugg SAC. This immediately prevented most development proposals across the north of the county from proceeding.

The Integrated Wetlands project was designed to enable Nutrient Neutral Development in the River Lugg SAC and providing a net river betterment.

The Council subsequently purchased a site close to the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) plant at Luston and obtained planning permission to create an Integrated Wetland. A legal agreement is being entered into to receive waste water from the Luston Plant into the integrated Wetland. Bentley, a specialist environmental construction company, have been commissioned to build the wetland chambers and plant the wetland with a mixture of plants which have been selected to maximise the uptake of phosphates.

An application has been made to the Environment Agency for the necessary Waste Permit, which will need to be in place before planting begins.

Cabinet noted the progress being made to create Integrated Wetlands and to determine Nutrient Certainty, and committed to receiving a further report as soon as all reasonable due diligence has been completed to consider whether Nutrient Certainty has been achieved.

Phosphate Credits

Cabinet also agreed the allocation policy, process and procedure for the introduction of Phosphate Credits for development in the Lugg catchment.

The Phosphate Credit Allocation Process is a staged process setting out how Phosphate credits that are generated by Herefordshire Council Integrated Wetlands can be secured by developers to offset the phosphate load of their development.

Cabinet gave the green light for Council officers to continue preparing for the commencement of trading of credits but not to proceed with the sale of credits until a further report has been provided to Cabinet updating on Nutrient Certainty of the integrated wetlands.

Cllr David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council, said: “We recognise that it has been a very difficult time for developers and also people looking to buy homes, and I would like to thank everybody affected for their patience. This is a ground breaking solution to tackling a national problem; Herefordshire is pioneering a global first in the use of Integrated Wetlands to address phosphate pollution and offset development.

“The progress that has been made is solid. We have identified two further sites in addition to Luston, we are actively looking for more and are welcoming proposals from developers.

“In addition to unlocking nutrient neutral development and improving water quality in the River Lugg, the wetlands will support the Council’s commitment to addressing the climate and ecological emergency. The wetlands will become excellent wildlife habitats and will increase biodiversity.”

The capital budget of £2m for the Integrated Wetlands project is funded through use of the Council’s New Homes Bonus, and is supplemented by a £1m capital grant allocation from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership through the Getting Building Fund.

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches LEP, welcomed the progress. “This is a truly innovative project which will help preserve and enhance our environment whilst allowing the levels of development needed to grow the Marches economy in a sustainable way. We look forward to working with Herefordshire as the scheme continues.”

More information can be found in the Cabinet papers.

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