A JUDICIAL review into whether the action plan on phosphates in the River Wye by Natural Resources Wales and their English counterparts was unlawful has been launched by a nature campaign group.

Wild Justice, which has TV presenter Chris Packham on its board, has launched the action – also against the Environment Agency – following the implementation of the River Wye SAC Nutrient Management Plan in September.

In a letter seen by The County Times, Wild Justice has informed the three parties that they have failed in their duties to protect the river from further deterioration from phosphates.

It also states: "By continuing to rely primarily upon voluntary measures and specifically catchment sensitive farming (“CSF”) to deliver the required reduction in phosphates (even though that the modelling work undertaken in formulating the Action Plan demonstrates that these measures cannot realistically deliver the required reductions) NE/NRW/EA are also in breach of their duties under the Habitats Regulations/ WFD Regulations to ensure that favourable conservation status (“FCS”)/ good ecological status (“GES”) is achieved and, in any event, to prevent deterioration of habitat and water quality, as above."

Meanwhile, Councillor Iain McIntosh, a Powys County Council cabinet member, says that while the judicial review may hit attempts to resolve housing shortages in Powys, it may force the companies to focus their work on phosphates.

He said: "The phosphates and river pollution issue has been with us in Powys for well over a year.

"I am very concerned about the effect this is having on our ability to build homes, on businesses expansion, Powys County Council’s desire to build more social housing and our farmers’ ability to produce food.

"The effect this is having on our local economy is like a disaster happening under our noses in slow motion.

"I am also very concerned about the environmental and ecological consequences, but claims from NRW that phosphate levels have been going down since 1971 have caused confusion.

"As Wild Justice claim within their Judicial Review against NE, NRW and EA are a matter for the courts to determine, I do think it’s about time these organisations stepped up to help resolve this serious matter.

"Members of the public are starting to adapt their lifestyles, different sectors within agriculture are introducing ways of reducing phosphate contributions, but Welsh Water need to quickly play their part by introducing phosphate stripping technology into sewage treatment works too.

County Times: Chris Packham is part of the campaign group.Chris Packham is part of the campaign group.

"Their claims that this will cost between £2m to £3m need looking into as I have met with organisations who have introduced this technology in Europe, at a much lower cost of around £15k per plant.

"However, will this be enough because NRW have recently indicated they don’t think treatment works that already have phosphate stripping technology will work?

"The judicial review is likely to stall progress so where do we go from here?”

A deadline of November 22 was set for the three agencies to respond to Wild Justice.

An NRW spokesperson said: “I can confirm that NRW has received a pre-action protocol letter from Wild Justice regarding the Wye.

“As this is now part of a legal process, we will not be commenting further at this time.”