Relief for Welsh rivers as Government commit to agricultural pollution regulations

Members and supporters of Salmon & Trout Conservation in Wales will be well aware of our relief that the Welsh Government has finally committed to the introduction of regulations to curb the scourge of agricultural pollution in Welsh rivers. The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) Regulations 2021 are due to come into force on April the 1st and with acute incidents of pollution running at an average of three a week, it is desperately clear that they are long overdue.

In response to an opposition motion, seeking to annul the implementation of the regulations and tabled for debate at the Senedd on Wednesday, March the 3rd, you will be pleased to hear that S&TC Cymru has been busy lobbying MSs, urging them to oppose the annulment and support the introduction of these much-needed measures. We trust the majority will agree to this and that the regulations will be brought into law in due course.

Many have misunderstood or misrepresented the manner in which the new regulations will be introduced. It is important to note that they will be implemented in stages. The first element takes effect on 1st April 2021 and includes what is effectively the adoption into law of chapter 5 of the until now voluntary Code of Good Agricultural Practice, the current iteration of which has been in existence since 2011. S&TC Cymru has lobbied in favour of such a move for some time and we are pleased to see our efforts come to fruition. Farmers have clearly had plenty of time to demonstrate their ability to operate under voluntary guidelines – that they have failed to do so is patently obvious and they have no one but themselves to blame that their efforts have been found wanting. The remaining elements of the regulations will be held in abeyance until 2023 and 2024.

Should the sector wish, they have until October 2022 to propose a scheme of their own which would have the same or better effect as the regulations. This means that the retained elements will only be introduced if the sector is unable or unwilling to present an equally or more effective suite of measures. The Welsh Government announced its intention to legislate against polluting agricultural practices in 2017 and a draft of the regulations has been available for over 2 years. There can be no accusations that the process has been hurried or hastily conceived.

S&TC Cymru welcomes the introduction of the regulations, believing them to be the most realistic option of saving our rivers and their wild fish from terminal decline.