Wrexham Council says major progress on the planning ‘phosphates’ issue will finally help unlock development and economic growth in the county borough.
Over the past two years, revised national environmental targets designed to reduce phosphate levels entering Wales’ most environmentally sensitive rivers and waterways have had a major impact on the ability of many Local Planning Authorities across Wales to grant planning permission.
New development can increase the level of foul flow that Waste Water Treatment Works have to deal with and this can affect the level of phosphate discharged into rivers. It’s proved difficult to meet the new targets – preventing many planning applications from being determined.
However, the council has been working closely with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water (DCWW) and the Dee Catchment Nutrient Management Board, amongst other stakeholders.
This has led to revised Environmental Permits being issued for the county borough’s largest wastewater treatment works at Five Fords, as well as the works at Gresford.
As a result, the council can now start to determine planning applications in areas served by these two treatment works.
Councillor Terry Evans, Lead Member for Planning, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to make progress and want to thank the council’s planning team, NRW, DCWW and the Dee Catchment Nutrient Management Board for working closely together on this key issue.
“We’ll now be able to make decisions on many applications that we couldn’t consider before, and this will help unlock development in Wrexham and facilitate economic growth.”
Working through the backlog
Lots of planning applications have essentially been put on hold due to the phosphate issue.
However, the new permits mean the council can now consider applications that equate to around 2,900 new homes served by the waterworks at Five Fords, and 170 served by the works at Gresford.
Other applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis following consultation with DCWW – signalling a return to normal business.
DCWW has confirmed that future investment at Five Fords will be required to ensure it remains compliant and to allow further building developments to be connected. This investment will be subject to sign-off from water regulator Ofwat.
Councillor Evans said: “Our planning team will now work through the significant backlog of applications.
“We’ll prioritise those nearest to commencing construction, as well as employment and service related developments, affordable housing proposals and developments with urgent time pressures.
“However, we would ask applicants for their patience and understanding, as working through the backlog will be a huge task.”
Five Fords waterworks serves the city and much of the county borough, including:
- Cross Lanes
- New Brighton
- Pentre Bychan
Gresford waterworks serves:
Revised Environmental Permits are expected to be confirmed for Cefn Mawr and Lavister waterworks very soon.
Other waterworks in the county borough will have revised permits within a year – although it’s not clear at the moment whether they’ll have capacity to accommodate additional development.
The Dee Catchment Nutrient Management Board will continue to monitor the situation for all these sites.