CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has become the first planning authority in Wales to launch a free tool to help developers calculate the impact of their project on local phosphate levels.
Planning applications for developments in large parts of Wales are currently on hold after new targets were published to help reduce river phosphate levels in special areas of conservation (SAC).
The targets are based on evidence that warmer and drier weather, predicted as a result of climate change, could reduce river flows during the summer and therefore increase phosphate concentrations causing damage to ecosystems, marine species and aquatic systems.
Any proposals for development within SAC river catchments must now prove that the scheme will not contribute to increased phosphate levels.
In Carmarthenshire, the Afon Tywi, River Wye, Afon Teifi and Afon Cleddau are special areas of conservation, and the latter three are currently failing against the targets.
Construction projects in proximity to these four rivers must now include mitigations to ensure they will be phosphate neutral or better.
Responding to the situation, Carmarthenshire County Council has designed a calculator to help developers understand the impact of their scheme so that appropriate mitigations can be included as part of their planning application.
A set of mitigation guidelines are also being produced to assist developers.
Cllr David Jenkins, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “This situation is not unique to Carmarthenshire – over 60 per cent of waterbodies in Wales fail against the new targets, and many construction projects are currently on hold which we know is frustrating for developers.
“We have already written to Welsh Government outlining our concerns about the impact on development and made it clear that we wanted to find a solution as quickly as possible.
“We are proud therefore to be the first in Wales to develop and launch a tool that will help developers calculate and mitigate the phosphate impact of their developments.
“Our calculator is a completely free resource, designed specifically for Carmarthenshire, and we strongly advise anyone looking to develop within the catchment of our river special areas of conservation to use it to support their application.”
Carmarthenshire County Council is also set up a phosphate stakeholder forum, working with developers, landowners and other key parties, to address the issue.
“We want to work with people to find solutions that improve the condition of our rivers, that are feasible and can be implemented quickly and successfully,” added Cllr Jenkins. “We want to engage with a wide range of people representing homebuilders, employers, the farming community, residents, environmental groups and more to discuss these issues.”
Sign up for the forum, find out more about the phosphate issue – including answers to frequently asked questions – and use the free calculator, at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/planning