Water Quality (Phosphate) in Riverine Special Areas of Conservation and implications for Planning and Development

Following new evidence about the environmental impacts of phosphate in watercourses Natural Resources Wales 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 Special Areas of Conservation rivers with over 60% of waterbodies failing against the challenging targets set. 

The assessment has 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 Natural Resources Wales 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 will impact on all development that increases the volume or concentration of wastewater. 

Catchment area of the rivers map

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.

Natural Resources Wales have provided interim planning guidance for developers which outlines what type of development is unlikely to have an impact on phosphate levels in the watercourses.  Detailed information regarding this matter can be found on Natural Resources Wales’ website.

As the guidance outlines 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 Natural Resources Wales and other partners to find solutions that enable development proposals to progress  and that do not harm the environmental capacity of our watercourses.  As you can appreciate we are absorbing the implications for current and future planning applications as well as the review of the Local Development Plan. 
We will update this page with further information as soon as we are able.