Save the Wye Catchment: An Appeal

by Residents of the Golden Valley

Save the Wye Catchment: An Appeal

by Residents of the Golden Valley
Residents of the Golden Valley
Case Owner
We are a group of concerned residents of the Golden Valley in Herefordshire. We are actively campaigning to protect our environment from pollution and poor decision making.
on 20th September 2021
pledged of £36,500 stretch target from 817 pledges
Residents of the Golden Valley
Case Owner
We are a group of concerned residents of the Golden Valley in Herefordshire. We are actively campaigning to protect our environment from pollution and poor decision making.

Latest: Jan. 10, 2023

Supreme Court: Next Stop

A Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.

We have some bad news and some good news. We need to share the fact that we lost our case at the Court of Appeal. So today, 10th January, our legal team are su…

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The beginning of our campaign 

Over 1200 generous people have already supported us in the first part of our campaign under the heading SOS: Save the River Wye.   This was so we could take Herefordshire Council to judicial review of a planning decision that stripped away protections from the River Dore and the Wye Catchment.

We now need to raise additional funds for the next stage of our campaign.  

Why we are fundraising again 

Unfortunately, the High Court judge finally published his long-awaited judgment on Wednesday 25 August 2021. He dismissed our case in the Judicial Review

Our legal team advises us that, on critical points, the judgement is flawed and is materially wrong in both fact and law. Remarkably the judge even writes: “If I am wrong. .” and then adds “The Court of Appeal will be in better position to determine” these points. 

In discussions with our advisors, we have decided as a group of local residents that we must appeal this judgment. We feel we have a moral obligation to continue, to represent all the people who have donated to the campaign so far because they care deeply about our river systems.

Unfortunately, the timescale for the appeal process is extremely tight. We must first ask the High Court for permission to appeal. We have barely two weeks, until 14th September, to prepare and make our submission.

How your contribution will help

Your kind contribution will help us to us to prepare our case for appeal as fully as possible. We need to raise £15k immediately and £35k to go all the way to an appeal.  We will leave no stone unturned in attempting to raise these funds but must rely on the generosity of everyone who cares about the state of our rivers to help us.

This case has national relevance. If we succeed at appeal, we will have ensured that planning decision makers in England and Wales cannot bypass the rules designed to protect sensitive natural systems from harm

Background to the case 

The original decision by Herefordshire Council decision failed to consider the environmental and ecological impacts of the development on the River Dore. The Dore, which is a tributary of the Monnow, is in the River Wye Special Area of Conservation (SAC) catchment. The rivers in the SAC are already severely ecologically stressed, in large part because of pollution from intensive poultry and livestock farming.

The legal case focused on the failure by the Council to undertake an assessment of the Bage Court development under the 'Habitats Regulations' (HRA) and, therefore, failing to protect the River Wye and its tributaries from further deterioration. The Council’s initial position was that no assessment was required because the site was not in the catchment of the River Wye. They acknowledged subsequently that they were wrong on this issue following our expert evidence to the Court. Part of our challenge was that the failure to undertake HRA assessments on all intensive agricultural developments within the catchment was wrong because it meant that on sites like this, there would be no assessment of the impact of manure run-off into the water courses and, inevitably, these developments will contribute to the worsening of pollution. 

The judgment ignores advice from our expert ecologists and hydrologists but takes at face value and ‘is in no doubt’ that the Council’s had made ‘detailed’ inquiries with Natural England regarding the risks posed by this development to the River Dore within the River Wye Sac. In fact, all that the Council did was to search Natural England’s Impact Risk Zone (IRZ) data on the internet to conclude, wrongly, that the River Dore is not in the Wye SAC. Alarmingly for the purposes of open democracy, ‘owing to the sensitive nature of the County of Herefordshire’, the data utilised by the Council is not available to the concerned public.

This judgment is of extreme importance nationally. The Court has effectively told Herefordshire Council, and by extension all other rural councils, that there is no need to carry out Habitats Regulations Assessment of livestock developments - even though we know that intensive livestock development is one of the main causes of the pollution of our rivers.  It opens the door for developments to be approved through the planning process without the necessary environmental checks and balances. It will be far reaching at a time when our rivers – like the Wye - are under massive pressure from pollution. They are dying, as confirmed by many public bodies. The degradation of our rivers is starkly revealed in the recent Rivercide documentary, yet no coordinated responsibility is being taken for protecting them.

Please help us go to the appeal Court to win protection for our precious and vulnerable river systems.

The Judgment is Case no CO/2511/2020.

Many thanks for your help once again.

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Update 9

Residents of the Golden Valley

Jan. 10, 2023

Supreme Court: Next Stop

A Happy and Healthy New Year to you all.

We have some bad news and some good news. We need to share the fact that we lost our case at the Court of Appeal. So today, 10th January, our legal team are submitting legal papers to take this case to the Supreme Court. 

The legal team have been working behind the scenes since mid-December to review the prospects for the case. It all seemed to fall in to place on 2nd January in an uncanny fashion.

Obviously, we were gutted on hearing the decision of the court to rule against us. But we have picked ourselves up. We are now going forward with even more determination to raise the profile of pollution in our rivers that could easily have been prevented. Hopefully we will win this case for the River Wye and other rivers in the Supreme Court.


For those that require a summary of the case:

The ecological health of the River Wye has declined rapidly over recent years largely as a result of agricultural pollution. The regulation states that if a plan is going to have a significant effect on a special area of conservation, such as the River Wye catchment, there must be an appropriate assessment of its conservation implications and Natural England must be consulted.

Herefordshire Council gave permission after its ecology officer advised planning officers that there was no need for a Habitats Regulation Assessment because the shed would not lead to any possibility of effects to the River Wye. That was in spite of the fact that there are already a number of livestock sheds on the site and the manure stored and spread on the land has only one place to go during rainfall, into the River Dore, into the River Monnow and ultimately into the River Wye.

We argued at the Court of Appeal that the High Court was wrong to accept ‘post hoc’ justification from the ecology officer that was submitted three months after planning permission had been granted. The planning committee had been misled into believing that there was no need for a Habitats Regulations Assessment. We also argued that the “precautionary principle” has not been applied. This is the legal standard that any scientific doubt about a project’s impact on a protected site should be eliminated before permission is granted.


There may be two judgements against us from the courts but there are also two acceptances by the court that agreed that we had a valid case and they allowed us to go forward. Despite having lost the previous two cases the important issue of pollution has not gone away. Each day more people are becoming more aware of the desperate state of the rivers. A win would ensure that councils take all reasonable steps to ensure the healthy quality of the rivers.

Our legal team presented the case to potential supporters and the Good Law Project has come forward to help us take this case further. We are delighted that Good Law Project have stepped in to help raise awareness of the importance of this case, in our endeavour to get justice for the River Wye and other rivers in England and Wales.” 

It is somewhat overwhelming to find ourselves in the situation to take this case ‘all the way to the top’. But we could not have done it without your help over the last two and a half years. We are honoured to be supported by those who have helped us to get to where we are.

The Good Law Project have put their own page on Crowd Justice. Please donate a sum which you can afford in these trying times; to financially support the case and ensure that you keep up to date with this its progress to the Supreme Court.

Update 8

Residents of the Golden Valley

Nov. 3, 2022

We Go to Court on November 15th

 Our case will be heard on 15 November.

The pressure is on to raise the final £5K.

Please help us if you can 

Update 7

Residents of the Golden Valley

Oct. 31, 2022

This Case is Too Important to Lose for Lack of Funds

URGENT. We are almost there after your great support and generosity. But we still need a last £6,000 to fund our legal team.

These are the final days before the Appeal Court hears our case in mid-November. We have had to wait 9 months since the Lord Justice’s remarkable ruling in January that our appeal has a “real prospect of success”.

As George Monbiot confirms, ours is a test case. If we win, councils will no longer be free to turn blind eyes to measures that prevent the cavalier emission of farm chemicals into the UK’s rivers.

So far our campaign has taken 30 months. But our determination is stronger than ever. Why? The issues of river pollution and abuse of regulations have become even more alarming. Yet the new government is determined to relax planning laws !!

These are ever tougher times for us all cash-wise. But we still need to do all we can to challenge everything that further threatens the environment we will live in.

So please donate whatever you can ASAP.

Update 6

Residents of the Golden Valley

Oct. 10, 2022


We have date(s) for our Court of Appeal action against Herefordshire Council on 15th or 16th November.  

We are hugely grateful for your support in our long struggle and are sorry that, once again, we need to ask if you can help us to reach the final target for our legal fees.

For those who may have  forgotten the details; we applied to the High Court for a judicial review back in June 2020. Despite an excellent contribution from our legal team, we lost the case. We were however granted leave to appeal this decision in January 2022. We are confident that the original decision was erroneous and that we have a strong case with a good chance of a victory in the Court of Appeal.

When we began this legal action there was little in the public arena concerning pollution of the rivers. Two years on, not a week goes by without TV news, or newspaper articles hitting the headlines relating to the poor state of the rivers and now, sadly, documentaries on the desperate state of the UK’s polluted waterways.

The following is a summary of events affecting the Wye in Herefordshire during 2022.

We were granted appeal on 26th January. Less than a week later Herefordshire County Council (HCC) voted overwhelmingly to set up a water protection zone (WPZ).  We were pleased to see that the Council could no longer ignore the desperate situation.

 In March, River Action called for the then environment minister to support the plan to Save the Wye and meet with local groups. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) announced ‘‘Pollution is harming the River Wye. We must act to stop the disappearance of Ranunculus aquatillis (Water Crowfoot) a valuable food source for wildlife.’’

In April, the Environment Agency announced it was concerned about the high phosphate levels in the Wye and Lugg catchments. “We are working closely with a range of stakeholders and partners to address these concerns.” they reported.  By June our Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman wrote in the Times newspaper that the River Wye ‘’is at grievous risk from phosphate pollution from farm soils and that pollution from farming in England and Wales is a much bigger issue for rivers than domestic sewage.”

The Hereford Times reported “Government failing to avert ‘impending death’‘ of the River Wye.

 In July, the Minister of the Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, turned down Hereford Council’s Wye Protection Zone bid.  By August Herefordshire Council’s Cabinet approved a new Commission to progress the restoration of the Wye.

In September, the River Wye Nutrient Management Board considered the findings of research by the Wye Salmon association and CPRE, which provides new evidence of the potential link between intensive poultry units and the decline of the River Wye. Citizen scientists sampled farmland along public footpaths near a tributary to the river in Herefordshire. They discovered the soils with the highest levels of phosphorus were close to intensive poultry units. This was reported by the Guardian on October 9th 2022

Herefordshire County Council can be applauded for their current actions and sentiments but it is a case of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted. The crux of our case rests on the poor decisions by Council planning officers. By supporting this case you are part of a bigger movement to protect waterways. This  case is focused on ensuring that councils do not ignore the rules on Habitats Regulation Assessments in relation to tributary rivers.

We are aware of the economic climate we find ourselves in and know that is a difficult time to ask for more donations. We have so nearly reached our target.  Can you spare a bit more to help us prevent the death of our rivers?

Our grateful thanks to you for all your support to date and also to our superb legal team for all their efforts.

Update 5

Residents of the Golden Valley

June 12, 2022

Protecting the Tragic Tributary of the Wye

Dear Friends

It’s been many weeks since we contacted you with news on our case. This is because there has been nothing to report on the legal front. More than a year after our High Court hearing we are still waiting for the date for our Appeal although there are indications that we may hear shortly.  So far this has been a two-year marathon requiring nerve, determination and fund raising. We have done well in the past two years, but we still need to raise an additional £15K to fund this High Court appeal.

However much has happened to raise public awareness of the increasingly dire state of our rivers nationally and of the Wye In particular. George Monbiot and Feargal Sharkey highlighted this at the Hay Festival on 4 June. George mentioned our case in detail. In an emotional moment for our campaign group, the audience of 800 gave rapturous applause in support of our case and legal action.  Sadly, the link to the event is paywalled currently but we are working to get a free link and will post it here as soon as possible.

George then described what is happening in a typically passionate and erudite piece in the Guardian on June 10th. He drew attention to our case because of the important legal precedent it will set for both councils and water companies. This is the relevant extract.

 A crowdfunded case is soon to be heard at the court of appeal, brought by people in Herefordshire’s stunning Golden Valley, challenging the planning permission granted in 2020 for yet another giant livestock unit. The case hinges on the question of whether, for legal purposes, the River Dore, which flows through the valley, is a tributary of the Wye. No one disputes that the Dore is a tributary of the Wye. But Herefordshire County Council has argued that, in law if not geography, the river does not belong to the catchment, so no assessment under the habitat regulations was needed before it approved the new unit. ‘

We badly need this kind of support. The analysis of data from regular testing by Citizen Scientists of the rivers in the Wye catchment confirms that the Dore is in particularly bad condition. It is now labelled a ‘tragic tributary’ of the Wye.

This reinforces the urgency and the importance of winning our legal action. We need to be successful to protect the Dore and all other smaller rivers where Councils and regulators can’t be bothered to assess the cumulative impacts of development along their banks. This relates particularly to the toxic impacts of runoff from intensive agriculture. In this test case, Hereford County Council declined to do this. In recognition of its importance, the Good Law Project has also submitted points for inclusion in our barrister’s skeleton argument to the Court.

Why is this so important? As George makes clear, runoff from intensive agriculture has already killed 90% to 97% of the Wye’s water crowfoot (Ranunculus) beds. Crowfoot, like mangroves in tropical seas, anchors the entire ecosystem. Any remaining life is threatened by repeated blooms (population explosions) of single-celled algae, fed by the extra nutrients in the water. As a result, the science says that like many rivers nationally the Wye catchment is close to ecological death. Algal blooms were seen on the Wye as early as March this year.

It is very rare for such an appeal to be approved. But the Lord Justice who gave the go ahead to our case wrote it has a “real prospect of success”. At a time of acute economic anxiety when there are many other calls on everyone’s budget and many equally deserving causes, can we ask you to dig deep one more time to support our case?

If we win, we will set a precedent that will benefit all rivers across the country. We hope you agree that we cannot let the case fail because of lack of funds

Update 4

Residents of the Golden Valley

Feb. 21, 2022

This Case is Too Important to Lose for Lack of Funds

This case is about forcing local councils to properly assess the impact of farming developments on rivers.

Two years ago, Herefordshire Council approved a planning application for expanding industrial livestock production in the Golden Valley. The site was close to the river Dore, a tributary of the Monnow, which flows into the Wye. The proposed development would create more manure, causing even more phosphates and other toxins to run into the Dore and thence the Wye - itself already close to death from pollution. However, Herefordshire Council planners maintained that the Dore is not within the Wye Catchment, so they did not carry out the legally prescribed Habitat Regulations Assessment.

Although our application for judicial review of this decision was dismissed, we have - most unusually - been granted leave to appeal. The Lord Justice who granted the appeal has said it has a “real prospect of success”.

Our solicitors, Leigh Day, say: ‘’We know that the current protections of riverine habitats are failing to prevent their ecological degradation. The situation is made even worse when existing laws are not properly enforced.’’

The existing laws should have protected this river.  Victory by us in the Appeal Court will ensure councils can no longer evade their legal duty to protect all our rivers.

If we lose our case, the legal framework for protecting our rivers will be weakened fundamentally, thereby invalidating local efforts to save them.

The case has now attracted national interest, including coverage by Planning Magazine and Ends Report, the UK’s influential source of intelligence on carbon, sustainability, and environmental issues. The latest issue has an article which covers our case in detail. 

These cases are tough, time-consuming, and expensive. This is why we urgently need your financial support.

We have already raised over £14000 but we need a further £22,000 to take this case to appeal. We mustn’t fail because we lack the funds to proceed. This case is just too important.

Please keep backing us so that we can fight this case to a successful conclusion!

Update 3

Residents of the Golden Valley

Jan. 25, 2022

''A Real Prospect of Success.''

Best New Year greetings and our thanks to you all for your patience.

We have important and positive news to share with you. Five months after we filed our request to the Court of Appeal, we have been given the go ahead for our important case.

The RT Hon Lord Justice Stuart-Smith writes in his decision dated 18 January that “I consider the appeal is arguable and has a real prospect of success”.

This is a fantastic development, and we want to thank everyone who has supported us to date. We are particularly grateful to our dedicated legal team: Leigh Day Solicitors and Alex Goodman, Barrister at Landmark Chambers.

Whilst we await a court date, we have the urgent task of mobilising fundraising for this next crucial stage in our long battle.

We now need to raise £24,000 urgently to fund this appeal process to take us to our £35k target. May we call upon you again?

This case has national significance. Winning the appeal will set an important new legal benchmark:

  • It will ensure a more rigorous planning process to protect rivers like the Wye and its catchment.
  • It will ensure that intensive agricultural developments close to sensitive river systems will be subject to Habitats Regulations Assessment before approval.

Public concern about intensive farming and resultant pollution is rising in response to the scale of the damage. The dire state of our rivers has recently been confirmed by the Commons Environmental Audit Committee on 13 January 2022. and the Environment Agency on 18 January 2022.

The Wye is particularly damaged by pollutants, including from sewage and from overwhelming levels of phosphate and nitrate pollution from agriculture. This was confirmed by George Monbiot’s brilliant Rivercide- Resilience programme live from the Wye on 14 July 2021. 

We know that everyone’s spending is now under pressure from inflation and rapidly rising energy and fuel prices, but the actions needed to save rivers like the Wye are more urgent than ever.

Winning this case will be a very important brick in the wall.

Update 2

Residents of the Golden Valley

Dec. 4, 2021

Season's Greetings from the Wye Catchment

We send seasonal greetings to all who love our rivers and have supported us so generously this year during our protracted legal campaign  to protect the Wye catchment.

We have had to remain patient in recent weeks whilst we wait for the Court of Appeal to decide to allow us to proceed with the next important stage of our case. As yet, we have no idea when we may hear. If and when we do get a hearing date, we hope we can call on your generosity and support once again.

In the meanwhile, we wish you all the enjoyments of the season, in the company of family and friends. We look forward to celebrating a successful legal outcome in 2022.

Update 1

Residents of the Golden Valley

Sept. 21, 2021

Grounds for Appeal Submitted

Hi there,

Thank you so much for your pledge and for supporting our case! We have reached our initial target and, as a result, have been able to begin our appeal process.

The grounds for the appeal were lodged with the High Court on September 14th and we are waiting now to hear if we will be given permission to proceed.  The recent disastrous and erroneous judgment has, ironically, ensured that this case now has national significance. We have received support publicly and privately from many individuals and bodies who are alarmed that, in the context of mounting concern about the health of the Wye catchment, this judgement weakens the regulatory framework designed to protect it.

These concerns are well-founded.  Residents of the Golden Valley have established the River Dore Citizen Science Project, in partnership with the Wye Salmon Association, to test the waters on the River Dore and its tributaries. The photo below shows that readings at one of the testing sites (21st September) showed levels of phosphates which are over 20x normal levels. Agricultural runoff is a major contributor to this pollution.  We must find a way to manage this better to protect the health of our rivers.  This cannot be done by trashing the regulatory framework and eroding the powers and duties of statutory agencies. This is why we are taking legal action.

We are determined to press on and are now fundraising to reach our stretch target, which we will need to take the case all the way through the appeal. We hope we can continue to count on your continued support.

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