RIVER pollution campaigners have welcomed the defeat of Government plan to weaken river pollution rules.
Ministers wanted to cut nutrient offset limits for house builders, but their late amendments were defeated in the House of Lords and cannot be added to the Bill in the commons.
Wild swimmer and campaigner Angela Jones posted: “About time. Small steps but right direction!!!
“Save the River Wye and Save the River Usk welcomes Labour’s move to oppose the erosion of EU-derived laws.”
Craig Bennett, of the Wildlife Trusts, added: “The Government was proposing the most significant weakening of environmental legislation in 30 years, and it was crucial that Labour stepped up not just to stop it, but also to expose the utterly false choice between housing and pollution that Rishi Sunak was offering.
“The millions of people that are fed up of the pollution in our rivers will be very grateful.”
Housing secretary Michael Gove, and environment secretary Thérèse Coffey wanted to end what they called “defective” EU laws requiring developers to offset any extra nutrient pollution they cause in sensitive areas under the habitats directive.
The Conservatives had promised not to weaken environmental standards after Brexit amid anger over the state of our rivers, but reportedly ignored its own nature watchdog’s advice on scrapping the pollution rules.
Natural England recommended making developers pay for the pollution, saying: “Our experience in similar schemes suggests that upfront, fixed-rate contributions from developers could be faster and offer more certainty, in enabling planning permissions to be granted and support emerging green finance markets.”
Richard Tyler of Save the Wye had warned before the vote: “House builders no longer have to worry about their impact on the river, nor do they have to contribute towards solutions. And agricultural pollution, the much bigger problem, remains unaddressed.
“We are incensed that this legal protection for our rivers is being removed. We all know how badly polluted our beloved Wye has become – you only have to put your foot in to feel the slime or look at the flow to see its colour.
“Yet the only restriction on its pollution by housing is being removed. Despite all their protestations about being green, Ministers have shown their true colours through this disgraceful act.”
Referring to Government promises not to weaken environmental laws and would increase protection, he added: “We can now see that this was a lie. As soon as they felt they could gather a few more votes, they ditched the commitments as if they were never there.
“There is a promise of some more money for wetland creation but the amount is laughable – £140 million across the whole of England – but there is no guarantee it will work nor any indication of who pays for their long term management.It certainly won’t be the house builders, putting yet more burden on taxpayers.
“For the Wye, we need a long term plan for reducing nutrient pollution with major reductions in chicken numbers, action to reduce legacy phosphate and many more nature-based solutions built into the landscape. Removing the requirement for nutrient neutrality, makes this even more urgent,” he added.