By Debbie James

A dedicated environmental watchdog could be established in Wales amid concern that Brexit will leave a gap in the process that upholds laws regulating farm pollution and nature conservation.

There is no specific body in Wales to hold the government and other public bodies to account for applying laws that protect water and air quality and nature conservation.

That gap is concerning bodies like wildlife conservation body, WWF Cymru.

It wants an independent new watchdog that could act on complaints if the government doesn’t do enough to safeguard the environment on issues such as river pollution.

With just days to go before the UK is legally due to leave the EU, Wales’s rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths launched a consultation on this and other future governance proposals.

The minister says the government is “determined’’ that there will be no drop in environmental standards post-Brexit.

“This is a complex issue which deserves careful consideration so we put in place the right governance arrangements for the future. I urge everyone with an interest to get involved and share their views with us.”

The launch of the consultation, which runs until June 9, 2019, comes amid a growing row between the government and Wales’s farming lobby on pollution control measures.

The pan-Wales nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) style regulations have been described as “disastrous’’ for Welsh agriculture.

The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) says its members are outraged by the proposals.

FUW milk and dairy produce committee chairman Dai Miles suggested smaller family farms would be hit particularly hard by the extra cost and paperwork burden associated with the new nitrate controls and he labelled the plans as “draconian’’.

He insisted that the government was going back on its commitment in December 2017 to strike a balance between comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment.

And Mr Miles accused the government of “cutting and pasting’’ its new proposals from NVZ rules already in place on around 600 farms across Wales.

The FUW wants the government to abandon its plans and replace them with “proportionate and targeted’’ measures.

Meanwhile the impact on Welsh farm businesses of the proposed nitrate controls are currently being investigated after a legal challenge by NFU Cymru.

Ms Griffiths authorised an ADAS-led regulatory impact assessment (RIA) to consider the impact of the regulations on farmers following discussions between the government and the union’s lawyers.