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Stackyard News May 2012

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NVZ Update Poses New Challenges

Updates and proposed boundary changes to the government’s NVZs [Nitrate Vulnerable Zones] that affect many farmers in Northern England have been announced today.

John Robson, Managing Director
of H&H Land and Property based in both Durham and Carlisle.

John Robson

“The controversial scheme, designed to protect water quality in England, has been revised. The new boundary proposals brings both good and bad news to farmers who will be affected across the North East and Cumbria.” says John Robson, Managing Director of H&H Land and Property.

The original NVZs were first proposed in 2008, and since then have been subject to over 700 appeals as they affect over 62% of the land in the country. Areas are designated as NVZs in accordance with the EC Nitrates Directive in order to reduce loss of nitrogen from agriculture to water courses, lakes and reservoirs.

Whilst the maps have yet to go public there are likely to be both NVZ additions and deletions in the Sunderland and Durham Areas which will affect a considerable number of farmers and we understand that there are also some areas near Brampton and Workington in Cumbria which have been affected.

John advises that all farmers need to check as soon as possible the Environment Agency website to discover where the proposed new NVZ boundaries have been drawn.

“Some farmers have been excluded by the proposal, which is good news, but many more have been brought in. It is imperative that you check the new maps. It is well worth a look, even at this apparently early stage. Defra will officially notify the registered owner or occupier of proposed NVZ land on the CPH database, on or around 17 June. They have said that they are going to write to affected people. But our advice is to check where you stand yourself as there is only a short window to lodge your appeal.”

John adds: “This date will trigger the formal notice for the start of the 28 day window for appeals and they will publish guidance on the appeals process on the website. These proposals, subject to any appeals, will be put to the Secretary of State for approval and will become NVZs on 1 January 2013.”

On the subject of appeals, he continues: “There is no scope for appealing on the grounds of complexity of the issue on your land. Defra’s only concession to the CLA, who lobbied hard against the procedures proposed, is to publish these detailed maps on its website before the appeals window opens, giving everyone who might be considering an appeal more time to prepare.”

“If you believe there are specific and logical reasons as to why areas should not be included, this would form the basis of the appeal. Our advice is that it is often difficult to appeal individually, so a collaborative appeal with neighbours could be more effective.”
John concludes: “You must look at the criteria for the particular change. There is strict guidance to comply with. We are ready to help anyone with their appeals, and if you need an expert eye, you should contact us swiftly.”

The 2008 Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations allowed for appeals to be made against the decision to designate certain areas of England as NVZs if there was evidence to demonstrate that:

  • the land does not drain into water identified as nitrate-polluted, and/or

  • the water to which the land drains should not have been identified as polluted.

Farms in an NVZ must observe restrictions on spreading quantities of fertiliser and farm yard manure and when it can be spread. There must also follow very strict guidelines on slurry storage. Other farms should follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice and must comply with the requirements of the Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations.

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