The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced a River Wye Action plan to “preserve” the river, including £35 million for poultry manure management equipment.

A new ‘river champion’ as also been appointed and a taskforce created with the aim of preserving and protecting the long-term health of the river.

The River Wye Action Plan sets out measures to begin protecting the river immediately from pollution.

This includes requiring large poultry farms to export manure away from areas where they would otherwise cause excess pollution.

The £35 million in grant support is for on-farm poultry manure combustors in the Wye Special Area of Conservation catchment to facilitate the export of poultry litter.

Farming minister Mark Spencer said: “The River Wye is facing real challenges, which is why the government is taking action to restore this important landscape and ensure it is better protected for future generations.

“Our plan will dramatically reduce the amount of nutrients entering the river, mostly by helping farmers transition to more sustainable practices.

“This will include providing up to £35 million for on farm poultry litter combustors and trialling the use of emerging technology to help farmers share organic nutrients with their neighbours.

“I’m also pleased to announce the appointment of Anthea McIntyre, who as a local and a former West Midlands region MEP will spearhead government action on the ground to improve the health of the river.”

‘River champion’

The ‘river champion’ for the Wye catchment, Anthea McIntyre, has been a resident of the Wye catchment and has represented the West Midlands region as an MEP for eight years.

Defra said she will bring a deep understanding and appreciation for local issues – particularly in the water and agricultural sectors.

In this role, she will bring together organisations and partners to protect and restore the Wye, including by supporting a long-term catchment plan.

This will involve working alongside the local Catchment Partnership and citizen scientists, who have brought together farmers and other land managers around a long-term plan to restore the river.

On her appointment, McIntyre said: “I’m very honoured to be appointed as the River Wye champion and look forward to working with all the committed partners in the Wye catchment to improve the quality of our vitally important river.

“Having lived close to the River Wye since my teens, and represented this area over many years, I am determined to work collaboratively with all the interested parties to ensure the river is restored and protected for future generations.”

‘Long-term solutions’

Area director for the West Midlands Environment Agency, Marc Lidderth, said: “The River Wye is a beautiful and important part of our landscape, our resources and community wellbeing.

“The introduction of this wide-ranging plan allows the Environment Agency to capitalise on its work already underway with partners, local farmers and environmental groups to tackle the decline in water quality in the catchment.

“Together we can progress the long-term solutions needed to restore this vital waterway.”

Deputy director for the West Midlands Natural England, Emma Johnson, said: “A healthy and thriving River Wye and the catchment is key to recovering nature in Herefordshire, so benefiting wildlife and people.

“We are pleased to see further action being implemented by the government to support the wide range of partners working to restore the Wye.

“Natural England is delivering nature positive advice supporting hundreds of farms within the Wye catchment as part of the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme and backing the Wyescapes and Wye Valley – Ridge to River – Landscape Recovery Projects in the area, as well development of Herefordshire’s local nature recovery strategy.”