New rules to protect the rural environment and help cut red tape for
farmers were unveiled today by Biodiversity Minister Barry Gardiner.
New legislation, designed to protect wildlife and landscape and to
make the rules simpler for farmers and land managers, will:
- replace existing rules which protect uncultivated and semi-natural
land from being damaged or destroyed by more intensive farming.
new EU-wide rules which guard against possible negative environmental
impacts from large-scale work such as adding or digging up field
boundaries such as ditches and fences.
Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) Regulations 2006 will
boost Defra's efforts to conserve and enhance the countryside alongside
measures such as agri-environment schemes, sites of special scientific
interest and existing laws to protect habitats and landscape.
Barry Gardiner said:
“The new regulations are a good example of Defra making
law which protects the environment whilst minimising red tape for
farmers. Farmers found the old rules on uncultivated and semi-natural
land confusing - the new rules will be clearer, with more farmer-friendly
definitions, and we have cut red tape by introducing thresholds
below which the rules will not apply.
“The new rules on restructuring will guard against the possibility
of major negative effects on the rural landscape, but they will
not catch farmers engaging in routine farming activities. “
The rules will apply when work is likely to cause significant
damage to the environment, and anyone wishing to do such work will
have to apply to the new Natural England agency to determine whether
an environmental impact assessment is required.
The proposed new Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture)
Regulations will apply to farmers and other managers. They will
apply in England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will
introduce similar legislation in the next few months.
The Regulations will restrict the ability of farmers and rural
land managers to carry out relevant projects on land they own or
rent. They will apply to:
- projects which increase the productivity for agriculture of
uncultivated land and/or semi-natural areas. Land covered will
either (i) not have been cultivated (physically or chemically)
in the last 15 years; and/or (ii) support a rich variety of self-seeded
wild plants and associated wildlife. Activities covered will
include the addition of soil improvers, increased levels of fertiliser,
sowing seed, or physically disrupting soil (e.g. by ploughing,
tine harrowing or rotavating) to make it more productive.
which physically restructure rural land holdings. This includes
(i) addition or removal of field boundaries; and (ii) recontouring
of land through addition, removal or redistribution of earth
or other material.
Normally, the Regulations will only
apply to projects over a certain size. For instance:
- projects on uncultivated land and/or semi-natural areas will
normally only be caught if the land concerned exceeds two hectares
- restructuring projects will normally only be caught if
they involve changes to more than four kilometres of field boundaries;
movements of more than 10,000 cubic metres of earth or rock;
or otherwise restructure an area in excess of 100 hectares
projects in sensitive areas (i.e. National Parks, the Broads,
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Scheduled Ancient Monuments)
are subject to lower thresholds of 50% of the values for other
The Regulations avoid overlap with similar regulatory
regimes by specifically excluding work which is covered by other
regimes: forestry projects, development under the planning system,
land drainage and water management projects, removal of hedgerows
and work on common land.
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