Slurry spreading© Tim Scrivener

Defra has announced the proposed nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) designations for farmers in England for 2017 to 2020.

The overall area of England under NVZ designation remains largely unchanged at about 58%, with a number of new areas designated while others have been removed.

Farmers can view the changes before the official notification process begins next year.

See also: One in eight Welsh farmers could quit over NVZ plans

Formal designation of which lands are to be classified under NVZs will begin on 1 January 2017.

Defra will be sending written notices to farmers who own or occupy land completely or partly within an NVZ in tranches in the New Year.

The NFU is reminding farmers that they will have 28 days from notification to appeal a decision.

NVZ appeals

But farmers can appeal an NVZ notice only if they believe their land either doesn’t drain into polluted water or drains into water that shouldn’t be identified as polluted.

Designated areas are shown on an interactive map available from the Environment Agency’s website. Farmers can search by postcode or place name to find out if their land will be in an NVZ in 2017.

The Environment Agency’s overview map [PDF] highlights the main changes proposed. The dark blue areas are proposed as new NVZs, light blue areas are existing NVZs while red areas will be removed as NVZs.

Check maps

NFU water quality adviser Nicola Dunn said: “With NVZs due to be updated in the New Year, this pre-notification period presents farmers with an opportunity to check the maps and view information underpinning NVZ designations.

“The appeals process in the New Year is farmers’ only chance in the four-year period to challenge NVZ designations, so it is important take a look.”

Farmers with land designated in an NVZ must observe strict guidance on the use of nitrogen fertilisers and organic manures.

Transitional arrangements will apply to farmers with holding in an NVZ for the first time in 2017 to allow time to adjust farming practices.