A MAJOR Pembrokeshire company has refuted fears that its processes could lead to an “environmental catastrophe” in the countryside near its factory.

Landowners and environmentalists have voiced concerns over changing water levels, land sinkage and the drying-up of springs in the area of Ludchurch close to Princes Gate Spring Water.

The reports have been investigated by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Princes Gate Spring Water’s operations director, Endaf Edwards, said: “We ensure that our abstraction is monitored to the last litre and that Natural Resources Wales are fully aware of our process.”

The company, which has recently set up a new drilling rig, stated in 2015 that new investment gave it the potential to produce 370 million bottles of water each year.

Residents living around Middleton Bank in Ludchurch - the highest point in Pembrokeshire between the Preselis and the sea – contacted NRW with their concerns that the water table in their area has been lowered.

Amongst them was Dave Scourfield, of Belle Vue Equestrian Centre, who discovered that the spring-fed stream which watered his stock had completely run dry and he could not locate it.

Another resident claims that a trout stream on the north side of Middleton Bank has dried up, with at least one local farmer contacting NRW because his land is sinking in places.

Pembrokeshire Council for the Protection of Rural Wales chairman Mary Sinclair is particularly concerned that a long-distance oil pipeline running over the top of Middleton Bank could fracture if ground shrinkage led it to sink.

She said: “This comes within the remit of an environmental disaster. No-one objects to the commercial use of the water, but it has to be sustainable.”

Andrea Winterton, South West operations manager from Natural Resources Wales, said: “Our natural resources, like our rivers and streams, provide us with water, support businesses and support important wildlife. We want to ensure that these resources are used sustainably.

“We are looking into these reports of streams drying up in the Ludchurch area, and concerns that the water table has dropped.

“Currently we have no control over ground water abstractions in the Ludchurch area, which is exempt from licensing requirements, but our controls will be extended into this area later this year.”