Farmers will be allowed to use road planings to repair their farm tracks and roads without being forced to pay a £546 registration charge and then an annual fee of £412.

The Environment Agency has agreed that farmers can bring in up to 150t of asphalt planings on to their farms without charge, so long as they have applied for permission under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations.

For the past few months farmers have been forced to pay if they import road planings, even in small quantities.

But strong lobbying from organisations such as the Country Land and Business Association and the NFU has persuaded the agency to change its mind. The new arrangements will last until 1 June, 2007.

The decision means that anyone who phones the EA to register for exemption 19A will be sent a document that has a form on the front with a tear-off slip.

If they complete this, then it will inform the EA that there is no requirement for a charge.

Ben Underwood, conservation adviser for the CLA, said farmers who had already paid the charge this year, and imported less than 150t, would not be able to claim back their money, but they would benefit from the change in charging policy in future years.

“I think this move is very significant and a victory for common sense and the farming community.

Many farmers have been importing road planings without problem for years, as it is a really good way of recycling materials.”

Aarun Naik, NFU environment policy adviser, praised the agency for coming up with a practical interim solution.

But he pointed out that farmers who wanted to take in building rubble would still have to pay the charge.

“The agency seems pretty clear that with rubble there is much more scope for contamination.”

In a statement the EA said it was a “proportionate regulator” and did not want to apply controls on an industry that might not be necessary.

“We want to encourage the use of road planings on tracks and roads and are aware that having to register and pay for this exemption may discourage this use.”

The agency has estimated that the new ruling will represent a saving to the farming industry of £15m-£26m.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk