I often enjoy wild swimming and look forward to the annual Monmouth Great Wye Swim on Saturday 25 September. Next year, delayed from 2020 by Covid, the Monmouth Challenge Aquathlon race is set to be part of the Welsh National Championships. This should be a fantastic opportunity for Monmouth Triathlon Club to showcase our beautiful town and river. There are, however, grave concerns about the quality of the water flowing along the River Wye because of sewage, phosphate and agricultural pollution.
My inbox has been filled with emails after recent documentaries highlighted unacceptable levels of pollution in both the River Usk and River Wye. It is an issue fast attracting public and media attention – and one I am taking very seriously indeed. As a member of the Wye Phosphates Working Group in Parliament alongside Jesse Norman MP, Bill Wiggin MP and Fay Jones MP, we are pressing for an integrated multi-agency plan to tackle this problem. Monmouth MS Peter Fox is also lobbying in the Senedd to get more traction on the Welsh side.
I’m delighted the UK Government has added several new legal duties to the Environment Bill to help deal with river pollution and is committed to driving improvements by bringing together the government, water industry, regulators and environmental groups. Unfortunately, the new legislation will not be extended to protect our waterways in Wales because it is a devolved policy area. I have therefore called on the Welsh Government to match this commitment and introduce the same measures as England.
Given the huge level of public concern, I strongly support a full and publicly available up-to-date report into the state of the River Wye. I have asked Natural Resources Wales - which is responsible for the cleanliness of rivers in Wales and answers to the Welsh Government - to undertake this. I am also trying to secure a meeting with senior management at present.
Team GB did us all incredibly proud at the Tokyo Olympics, showing British sportsmanship, hard work and determination at its finest. Despite being postponed and played out behind closed doors with no spectators, the Games were just as special and produced a shower of new stars. Congratulations to our Welsh Olympians who brought home three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. The next Summer Olympics are only three years away, with Paris hosting in 2024, and I have no doubt this young and talented team will go on to achieve even greater things.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 11 August 2021 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 12 August 2021*