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STATEMENT: River Action’s response to the Wye Action Plan announced by the Government (12/04/24)

Responding to the Wye River Action Plan announced today by the Government, Chair and Founder of River Action Charles Watson said:

“The announcement of DEFRA’s long-overdue Wye Action plan, has to be welcomed in part. In particular, there is finally a clear acknowledgment of the causes responsible for the ecological collapse of the river and the role played by intensive agricultural and the poultry industry specifically. Notwithstanding the scandal of how this tragic situation was ever allowed to happen in the first place – and in particular how one of Europe’s largest concentrations of intensive poultry production could have ever conceivably been allowed to have been established in such a highly protected and ecologically sensitive river catchment – certain specific undertakings, such as the provision of more subsidy for wider river buffers can only be good news for the river.

However, our major disappointment is that while we were promised a year ago by the Secretary of State for DEFRA an “action plan” to save the Wye, we have instead been given today just an undertaking for “the development of a 5-10 year Catchment Plan” and that other proposed actions are similarly vague and lack definitive timelines, such amending Environmental Permitting Regulations on manure use being “subject to consultation”. There is also a thundering silence on critically important actions such as banning new intensive livestock production units and reducing the permitting thresholds for poultry units to ensure the widely polluting free range egg producers are brought into the permitting regime. The absence also of any new funding for the regulatory agencies – or commitment to be tougher on non-compliance means that the current ineffective advisory approach to regulation remains unchanged.

There is therefore a really disappointing lack of urgency in today’s announcement and given the failure of the existing Wye Nutrient Management Board over many years to fulfil its promise to develop a similar set of promises around implementing an effective Catchment Plan, I can’t help feeling that we have been here before.”


For interviews call Ian Woolverton on 07377 547 362 or email

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