Rules restricting motor sports on farmland are unlikely to be lifted next year – but neither are they likely to be tightened, according to a senior DEFRA official.
“My initial view is that we will not change the restrictions in 2006,” said John O’Gorman, head of DEFRA’s CAP implementation policy branch.
But we did promise to review the situation and we are doing so.”
Mr O’Gorman was speaking at a special meeting of 90 farmers and motor sport enthusiasts at Braintree, Essex, on Thurs, 20 Oct. EU inspectors would arrive in London this week to assess the situation, he said.
DEFRA civil servants caused the cancellation of numerous events earlier this year when they decided farmers would not be entitled to receive the single farm payment if they held motor sports on their land.
Departmental officials later relented, saying that motor sport events could be held on farmland outside the designated 10-month period, and for any 28 days within the 10-month period.
Mr O’Gorman said this rule was likely to stay.
“We will look at whether there is any pressure for change, but farmers have had an awful lot of adjustments to contend with over the past year and my preference is for there to be no more change.”
He added: “If there are any changes, it will only be because the EU has told us that what we are doing is illegal.
But I believe that the EU auditors will not find fault with our revised guidance.”
Farmer and motor sport enthusiast Jamie Greenwell runs one endurance competition every year on his farm at Capel St Andrew, Suffolk.
The nine mile course leaves a muddy track across his land about 1m wide, he said.
Mr Greenwell said he realised some farmers were worried about the implications of hosting motor sport events, especially when it came to making sure land was kept in good agricultural condition.
But he added: “We can operate within the current rules.
If someone wanted to be pernickety about cross-compliance then I guess they could be, but hopefully commonsense will prevail.”