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Fish Legal - December 2022 Newsletter

River Wye breakthrough?

Fish Legal has uncovered a report by Natural Resources Wales which confirms both the link between intensive poultry units and damage to River Wye SAC species and the gap in the regulatory regime to address it.

Over two years ago, Fish Legal notified Natural Resources Wales that environmental damage was being caused to the River Wye by intensive poultry units in Wales. They disagreed, looking at data from 2009-2015.

Fish Legal went to court separately to challenge a planning application for increased poultry production in the Wye catchment where Natural Resources Wales did not object to the application. Fish Legal argued in court that the planning authority hadn’t considered the pollution risk to the Wye from digestate spreading when they decided to grant permission to expand poultry production near Builth Wells, making the decision unlawful.

But the Court of Appeal said that while Powys County Council had arguably made an “error of law” in treating the spreading of digestate as not material to their decision, the Council was entitled to rely on the existence of a regulator regime to control the pollution from spreading, of which NRW was itself the regulator.

In the meantime, in the newly published Core Management Plan for the Afon Gwy / River Wye SAC, it states that NRW are not regulating the spreading of manure, or digestate, in the Wye catchment. Other than ‘cross compliance’ they say in this new report that it is outside of regulatory control, and they also link diffuse agricultural pollution from intensive poultry units as a problem for the river.

Fish Legal is waiting for an explanation from Natural Resources Wales.


Fish Legal highlights risk to rivers Wye and Lugg of anaerobic digestor plans in Ledbury

Meanwhile, Fish Legal submitted objections to a planning application for an anaerobic digester plant in Herefordshire, within the catchment of the rivers Wye and Lugg, on the basis that the potential for pollution to nearby watercourses has not been properly considered as required by law.


River Swale and Cod Beck intensive poultry application

Some planners are considering the pollution risks to nearby rivers from new intensive poultry production. Following representations by Fish Legal on behalf of the Knayton Angling Club, planning permission for a proposed poultry unit for egg production covering 60 hectares in Hambleton, North Yorkshire has been refused. The application failed to properly consider the pollution threat to nearby Cod Beck and the River Swale.


Anglers successfully sue River Mole polluter and donate £18,000 settlement to restore the river

A company that polluted nearly 5km of the River Mole, the principal tributary of the River Taw, in Devon has paid £18,000 in damages to local angling clubs and fishery owners in a legal claim that shows how dangerous the nutrient-rich liquid produced by anaerobic digestors is for rivers.

In July 2019 liquid anaerobic digestate deposited by agricultural contractors AJ Sing and Sons Ltd on fields north of South Molton entered the river, causing what was described by one Environment Agency officer as the worst fish kill they had seen in 30 years. An estimated 15,600 fish died as result of the pollution, including juvenile salmon, adult brown trout, sea trout and juvenile brown trout.


River Trent de-icer battle continues

Working with the Derby Railway Angling Club, Fish Legal has exposed further permit breaches by East Midlands Airport, leaving de-icer pollution from the airport discharging into the River Trent unchecked.


The Environment Agency has confirmed that East Midlands Airport is failing to provide key monitoring data to the regulator that would demonstrate whether the airport is complying with its permit for discharges of de-icers into the River Trent and Diseworth Brook.


Another Herefordshire river suffers bankside damage by landowner

Natural England has confirmed that it is investigating another case of unconsented damage of a highly protected river by a landowner in Herefordshire, this time on the Rive Teme. In August this year, anglers witnessed and reported trees and bankside vegetation being removed by heavy machinery over hundreds of metres of the River Teme.

The incident has close similarities to the widely publicised case on the neighbouring River Lugg, where earlier this year a landowner pleaded guilty in court after being jointly prosecuted by Natural England and the Environment Agency for damaging around a mile of that protected river in 2020 and 2021.


Southern Water drop plan to abstract water from rare chalk stream below level set to protect wild salmon

Southern Water has quietly dropped its application for a drought permit that would have allowed it to continue taking water out of the River Test even if the river fell below an agreed minimum level, previously set for the protection of the Test’s salmon population. The application was submitted to the Environment Agency on 19 July but was formally withdrawn on 4 November.


Fish Legal and the Testwood & Nursling fishery near Southampton challenged the drought permit application at a public inquiry in August, arguing that Southern Water had made inadequate efforts to minimise customer demand and to mitigate the potential impact on the river’s fish stocks and ecology, something they are required to do by law.


The water company has now agreed to a number of potentially helpful mitigation measures.


Legal action against Llynfi polluter hindered by Natural Resources Wales

Fish Legal has submitted a formal complaint to the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales on behalf of the Gwent Angling Society, whose fisheries were devastated by a major pollution on the Afon Llynfi in July 2020.


Working with Fish Legal, the club had wanted to explore bringing a civil claim against the polluters who killed tens of thousands of fish along five kilometres.


However, the club has been unable to move forward with its own legal action against those responsible due to a lack of disclosure by Natural Resources Wales, who have withheld full details of their investigation despite announcing in October 2021 that no prosecution or other enforcement action would be taken in connection with the pollution incident.

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