Agenda and minutes
Contact: Simon Cann
Welcome and apologies
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced two new members, Cllr Catrin Maby Monmouthshire Council and Cllr Jackie Charlton Powys Council.
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Cllr Harrington (Herefordshire Council), Cllr Phillips (Herefordshire Council), Helen Lucocq (Brecon Beacon National Park Authority), Stuart Smith (Wye Salmon Association), Cllr Sid Phelps (Forest of Dean District Council), Nerys Hammond, Cllr Hitchiner (Herefordshire Council), Kevin Bishop (Herefordshire Council Officer)
Led by: Chair
The Chair invited the board to consider the minutes of the meeting of 30 March 2022
Alison Caffyn (AC) pointed out (as a non-member) that the meeting of 30March was not minuted as she recalled. She had given updates on livestock numbers, which were read out, but does not have colleagues in Monmouthshire or the Forest of Dean. She had simply suggested that these individuals be asked to obtain and report their own numbers in relation to livestock.
Elissa Swinglehurst (ES) Noted that the action was for the Forest of Dean and Monmouthshire representatives to take away and come back with numbers when they had obtained them.
The minutes of the previous meeting on 30th March 2022 were then agreed as an accurate record.
The board considered the actions arising from the previous meeting.
ES Noted that there had been an action to contact DEFRA about using the annual inventory as a way of monitoring livestock and asked if there had been a repsonse.
Rachael Joy (RJ) explained that there had been no reply from the minister.
ES enquired if the board should ask again?
RJ stated that she would add this to the chaser list of other letters the board hasn’t had responses to.
Action: A second letter to be sent out on behalf of the Board to DEFRA to request data from its inventory on livestock numbers, specifically the numbers of chickens, in the Herefordshire catchment area.
[Action by: RJ)
ES enquired about the RAG rated actions monitoring, and whether there was anything in the pripeline for monitoring actions coming forward against the plan.
RJ explained there was further work to be done with Hayely Fleming (HF) the Chair of TAG, who had done a lot of practioner devleopment work, which had been much needed. However there was a need to knit that back to the plan and circulate it to the Board for the September meeting.
ES enquired of Fergus O’Brien (FOB) about an outstanding action on biosolids.
FOB had provided some feedback on the action plan on where the biosolids were being spread relating to totals from Welsh Water. His colleagues had enquired with Severn Trent and anecdotally they believe Severn Trent don’t spread biosolids, but were still seeking confimration of this.
ES asked what assurances there were that biosolids were not being dumped on nutrient enriched lands?
FOB all spreading of biosolids to land is covered by existing sludge use in agriculture regulations, further information could be povided if required.
• To receive an update from the new chair of TAG
• To provide the Board with an opportunity to monitor progress in delivering the NMP Link to plan
• To provide partners with an opportunity to update on progress of items specifically referenced in the plan
Led by: Hayley Fleming, Chair of TAG, and partners
The board received the reports and Hayley Fleming (Chair of TAG) presented a series of slides, which covered off the purpose of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
HF then talked through the new Wye Actions Spreadsheet, which would provide a ‘two way street’ of information exchange between the Board and TAG. The framework would record actions and named leads for actions and would be visible and accessible to the public, so that people could see how actions were being progressed.
The Wye Work Plan 2022 identified six key areas of focus that would require working groups made up primarily of TAG members and other stakeholders, these were: Poultry, Farm advice, Land use innovation, Regulation, Evidence and Wetlands. Currently the Poultry group had made the most progress. HF then discussed the other areas and suggested subjects they should be addressing. It was noted that the Wetlands subject may be better suited to a Task and Finish Group arrangement.
TAG would advise and bring recommendations to the board for decisions, and the new management framework would facilitate that and show progress on actions. However TAG wouldn’t be responsible for delivering all the work and would need assistance from partners and stakeholders.
ES praised the work TAG had done and felt the plan and action spreadsheet was an excellent piece of work. ES was especially pleased that it would be visible to the public as it would allow people to monitor the board’s progress and activity
Cllr Jackie Charlton (Powys Council) introduced herself to the group and enquired how Natural England was working with the Welsh equivalent and whether Powys was involved?
Ann Weedy (AW) explained that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) had provided some feedback and information, which was provided within the agenda pack. AW pointed out that it was important to note that the Welsh and English laws were different and AW said she would be happy to meet with Cllr Charlton to discuss things further and provide some background.
AW IPUs could not be visited due to Avian Flu restrictions, but these had now been lifted. Some targeted regulated units are being worked with over the summer. Those under 40000 were not regulated and therefore the work was more reactive in relation to the smaller units.
ES advised that all members of the board would be happy to work with Cllr Charlton to support her.
Grace Wight (GW) supported the approach made by TAG and enquired whether there were specific areas where support / resource was required. HF advised that the top priority was agreeing a named person to chair each working group. GW suggested that the Environment Agency would nominate someone to chair the Evidence Working Group.
On a general note regarding the working groups HF suggested it would desirable if somebody from TAG chaired each group and that they could report up to the board, but ultimately the selection would come down to whichever individual was best suited to do the job.
HF explained that the working groups would ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
Led by: Natural England
The board received the report.
Claire Minett (CM) explained that it had been proving difficult to recruit ecological freshwater advisers and that Natural England was on its third round of recruitment. Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers were less difficult to recruit, although there was a post still vacant. Only 43% of land use was being picked up by Catchment Sensitive Farming. The board needed to ask how does it get people who aren’t involved to engage? The board needs to make a step change and take a really pro-active approach to encouraging involvement.
ES advised that it was vitally important that phosphate reduction as a result of these actions is recorded to help demonstrate the difference that is being made. Capture those benefits and hopefully show a year-on-year on improvement to demonstrate things are working.
CM it is very difficult to evaluate the impact of the buffer strip in a field and the impact it has on the river.
Merry Albright (MA), highlighted the need to capture the savings and quantify everything that was being done, given that it was being paid for by the public purse. It would also be desirable to quantify retrospective work.
Action: CM to circulate latest version of the Catchment sensitive farming evaluation report.
[Action by: CM]
ES asked how the board could capture the benefit of the Wye Water Environment Improvement Fund (WEIF) and what was the size of the funding? Also in relation to tree planting, how many were there and over what area were they? GW didn’t have information to hand on this, but would look to obtain it.
ES suggested that where natural flood management fits in with the Lugg internal drainage board, the NMB cross reference that with the area engineer there, because there may be a mutual benefit from that as both parties are dealing with the same issue from different ends.
ES asked if there was a timeline for publication for Project TARA?
GW said no, but would find out as work was ongoing
ES asked about phosphate bound in sediment.
GW Suggested bringing all of this together as part of the remit of the evidence group of TAG, so that it becomes a partner-led piece.
Action: GW to bring information relating to WEIF, Project TARA, tree planting initiatives and phosphate bound in sediment data to the board as part of the Evidence working group remit.
[Action by: GW]
ES praised the quarterly reports, the increase in EA officer and resulting increase in visits and enquired about quantifiable results from these visits, what action has been taken and what was the level of compliance?
ES stated there was a need for a piece of work on total phosphate versus orthophosphate, as that was where the evidence is taking the board now.
GW explained that this was being looked into by the Environment Agency.
Fergus O’Brien (FOB) pointed out that a ‘worse-case scenario’ had been used in relation to figures being modelled in relation to orthophosphates.
ES pointed out that ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
A response has been received from Minister Pow and the Board is asked asking the Statutory Partners and TAG to consider gathering the necessary evidence.
Led by: All
The group received a response from Minister Pow and the Board asked the Statutory Partners and TAG to consider gathering the necessary evidence.
The board noted the response and how it underpinned the desirability of obtaining and capturing good evidence and data.
To provide the Board with an opportunity consider the recent RePhoKus report into legacy Phosphate
Led by: Chair
The Board received and considered the recent RePhoKus report into legacy Phosphate.
ES thanked the RePhoKus team and Kate-Speke Adams.
ES noted the recommendations and that the substance flow analysis was showing an excess of 3,000 tonnes of phosphate per annum, which is equivalent to 17 kilogrammes of phosphate per hectare per annum. The recommendation basically was that this needed to be rebalanced and go below this amount in order to start drawing up the legacy phosphates. It wasn’t just neutrality that was needed, a point of negativity had to be reached.
MA asked why the board wasn’t using the recommendations.
ES pointed out the report had only recently been published.
MA asked if the recommendations needed to be approved by the board.
HF explained that TAG considered this to be quality research containing the most reliable scientific evidence the board had access to and it would not question the data contained within.
HF asked the board to ponder whether any of the information in the RePhoKus report would help the board to redirect its efforts.
MW acknowledged there was too much phosphate in the catchment, but massive changes were coming with agricultural reform. MW urged the need to get the land managers on side because they were 66% of the solution. MW said that education, re-education and knowledge exchange were key within the farming industry and that intervention had to come to make that big change.
· To provide a project update and to discuss next steps for the project / lessons learned
· To consider whether there is an opportunity to extend the scheme and lessons learned to other parts of the catchment.
Led by: Kate-Speke Adams, Wye and Usk
Kate-Speke Adams (KS) gave a presentation on the make-up, funding and activity of the Go Wild in the Curl project. Key elements were identified including:
· Soil Testing
· The farm phosphate balance,
· Utilising Countryside Stewardship to secure improvements
· Citizen Science Monitoring
· Project Finances
· Upscaling this model
KS stressed 5 years of good work can be undone in a flash
ES good to see positive action. Would be great to see if it could be upscaled.
MA Capture the results and publish. If there’s a way we can shape what you’ve captured let us know.
KS Expanding to Powys hinges so heavily on extra funding, it will not have the same impact in Wales where the farm grant system is very different.
ES Confirmed that the project was fundable through existing schemes, working together catchment groups will all fall within the local nature recovery tiers.
Updates on supply chain activity - Avara / Noble / Gamber
The Board are asked to invite Avara, Noble and Gamber to provide a brief written update to future meetings.
Led by: Chair
ES Would like this as a regular item and would like to be sighted on work being done within the supply chain.
To provide the Board with a brief update on the AgriSPD and to explain the process for consultation
Led by: Angela Newey, Herefordshire Council
Angela Newey (AN) gave a brief verbal introduction to the SPD stressing that it was very much a draft document that would be subject to further amendments. The SPD was broadly comprised of two parts:
The first part looks at various issues that arise when the council receives planning applications for different types of agricultural developments, and the reports and supporting information that would be required to be submitted. It will provide a kind of one-stop-shop for farmers, agents and the development management team.
The second part of the SPD is a technical annex that’s been prepared by a team from Ricardo and provides methodology to assess and mitigate against increased phosphorus loading of the river. It uses the Farm Scoper programme, which provides a process to assist farmers in order to make calculations and then provide that evidence as part of the planning application. This would apply to development in the Lugg catchment, but could also be applied elsewhere in the county.
The draft SPD will go out for consultation around August/September 2022 for about eight weeks, which will provide an opportunity for the board to provide formal comments and input and the team will make any changes before it proceeds to adoption.
Items for escalation to statutory partners
To ensure all issues and risks identified in the meeting are correctly captured and moved to a risk and issues log.
Led by: All
To provide members of the public attending the meeting to ask questions of the statutory partners. The public joining the meeting via YouTube are being provided with the facility to email in questions during the meeting.
To provide members of the public attending the meeting the opportunity to ask questions of the statutory partners. The public joining the meeting via YouTube are being provided with the facility to email in questions during the meeting.
Richard Tyler (RT), asked about the fate of the Water Protection Zone (WPZ) proposal and whether DEFRA turned it down? The Welsh and English statutory agencies were asked for an update.
GW shared the response. The WPZ was always an option on the table, but there was a need to assess the effectiveness of existing legislation. Time was needed to establish whether new officers were making a difference before going down that route.
AW described a similar situation in Wales, a WPZ had to be evidence based and current regimes had to be shown not to be effective or beneficial.
RT has the minister been asked that question?
AW not aware of formal response from Welsh ministers, but will follow it up.
Action: AW to follow up with WPZ proposal response with Welsh Minister.
[Action by: AW]
Andrew McRobb (AMR) asked “if the farming rules for water say there should be no excess nutrient put on greater than the crop needs, why, if 3,000 tons a year is being applied, aren’t we questioning this?”
GW was not able to answer this and said she would pass it back to the team at the Environment Agency.
AMR stressed that we were not following the farming rules for water as they are written and that he would just like an admission that we were failing.
James Marsden (JM) nobody is talking about sheep and total poo and the components of poo and pee other than RePhoKus. Until we reduce total poo, we’re not going to get anywhere, why aren’t we reducing livestock numbers across the catchment? The agencies appear to be unwilling to go there because they have their respective governments on their shoulder telling them not to. JM what is holding the agencies back, they have the measures to deal with this?
AW responded that agriculture was major part of the rural landscape in Wales and that this was a sensitive issue, but those conversations were happening with the agricultural sector and Welsh ministers and this is a priority for the Welsh government. Watch this space.
ES pointed out that sheep farming tends to be less intensive.
JM suggested having a look at the RePhoKus data, which suggests there are 11 million sheep in Wales.
Helen Hamilton (HH) noted that the ecology of the Wye goes much deeper than just phosphate. In the presentation about the SPD using Farmer Scoper they’re only applicable in the Lugg, now that the Lugg catchment area is already failing.
HH said that the local authorities must take a precautionary approach, and that you don’t wait until you’re absolute failing to hit your targets before deciding to do something. The position statements and regulation assessments need to be done to prevent any further deterioration and to prevent ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
Date of next meeting
28th September, 2-5pm
21st December, 2-5pm
It was confirmed that the dates of the next meetings were:
28th September, 2-5pm
21st December, 2-5pm