Outcome of legal challenge a win for Welsh rivers

Last week the legal challenge of the new Wales-wide agricultural regulations by National Farmers Union Cymru was struck down by the High Court. This is good news for Welsh rivers including the Dee, where agriculture and in particular the spreading and storage of manures is a significant source of pollution.

The regulation puts in place key elements which are vital to reducing the impact of agricultural pollution, while also ensuring uniformity across Wales. We are pleased to see three key principles which are set out as legal requirements:

  • An upper limit on the volume of nitrogen that can be spread onto a field tied to the requirements of the crop.
  • Bad practice spreading (e.g., on high-risk fields, during inappropriate weather) is an offence in its own right. Not solely when these acts lead to a large-scale pollution incident such as a fish kill.
  • Ensuring planning and record-keeping around spreading is a legal requirement, an important step in ensuring practices can be effectively enforced.

The full guidance for landowners and farmers can be found here.

The regulations include a provision for reviewing effectiveness every four years and for alternative proposals to be considered. Welsh Dee Trust will work with Afonydd Cymru to set out proposals which we feel will make the regulations more effective.

Peter Powell, Welsh Dee Trust CEO, said:

This is a great step forward in tackling pollution in Welsh rivers, the regulations are not perfect but they put in place important regulatory requirements which are currently missing. The spreading and storage of manures are a high-risk activity, which when wrongly carried out severely impacts rivers and their wildlife. These regulations put into place key principles which will reduce some of this risk. The requirement now is for proportional and active enforcement of these rules by Natural Resources Wales, without it some farms will continue with bad practice. This will vastly reduce the impact of the regulations while only adding a paperwork burden to those farms which are doing the right thing.