AN unprecedented wetland project has been acknowledged with a Local Government Chronicle award for Environmental Services.

High levels of phosphate have long been known to damage Herefordshire rivers including the Wye and Lugg.

By 2019 Natural England advised Herefordshire Council that the levels of phosphate in the Lugg sub catchment meant that in order to protect the river, any new housing development must fully offset its phosphate load.

Herefordshire Council responded to this with a unique global first in developing the Luston Wetland to capture and remove phosphate, helping to improve the wellbeing of our rivers and creating credits that could be used for new homes.

The scheme ensures that more phosphate is removed from the river system than is returned to it through any form of development and provides a boost to local biodiversity and wildlife, helping to safeguard our natural environment as a county.

The Luston Wetland, a few miles north of Leominster, is partly funded by developers, and the remainder through New Homes Bonus and Local Enterprise Partnership funding, and the Council will recoup costs through planning contributions to reinvest in several further wetland sites.

The judges recognised it as a groundbreaking initiative that tackles the critical issue of nutrient pollution and its subsequent economic repercussions.

Ross Cook, corporate director of economy and environment, said: “This award reflects the progress, effort and innovative thinking that has gone into tackling the issue over a number of years.”