How new phosphate targets may impact on your development

How new phosphate targets may impact on your development

In January 2021 Natural Resources Wales (NRW) published new targets to reduce the concentration of phosphorus in Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) across Wales.

The revised targets followed evidence from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee that warmer and drier weather, predicted as a result of climate change, could reduce river flows during the summer and, therefore, increase phosphate concentrations. It is also based on new evidence about the damaging effect of excess phosphate to water ecosystems and species. The importance of this is partially recognised through the declaration of a Nature Emergency by Carmarthenshire County Council in 2022.

NRW Guidance states that Local Authorities are responsible for upholding the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 through monitoring development within SACs.

At present, over 60% of waterbodies in Wales fail against the tighter targets, and Local Planning Authorities are being asked to take more action to avoid further deterioration of the environment. This means all future development proposals within failing SAC River Catchments  that will generate an increase in the volume of wastewater must now prove that the ensuing development will not contribute to increased phosphorus levels.

In Carmarthenshire, the Afon Teifi, Afon Tywi, River Wye, River Usk, and Afonydd Cleddau are designated as riverine SACs. At present, Afon Teifi, River Wye, River Usk, and Afonydd Cleddau are failing against NRW’s targets, whereas Afon Tywi is passing although with limited headroom. Further details on status against these targets can be found within The NRW Compliance Assessment report of Welsh River SACs against Phosphorus Targets Report

Developments in proximity to these rivers may have limited capacity to connect to the public sewerage system and alternative solutions must be found that will meet the new targets, either by meeting nutrient neutrality or betterment.