28 March 1997

Cash deal for Severn Trent damage

FARMERS whose land has been damaged by Severn Trent Waters abstraction of groundwater will be compensated after farming groups reached agreement with the firm.

The deal means that for the first time farmers can apply to Severn Trent for compensation. Previously, claims against water firms were impossible through the courts because abstractions were licensed.

But after extensive negotiations between Severn Trent, the NFU and Country Landowners Association, a new voluntary scheme has now been agreed.

Andrew Richards, NFU senior technical adviser in the West Midlands, said the deal would bring relief to farmers whose land had been damaged by the water abstractions. And he welcomed Severn Trents recognition that, although it had no legal liability, it had a moral responsibility to pay compensation in appropriate cases. From May 1, farmers can obtain claim forms from their NFU regional office. And in the event of any dispute the scheme provides for it to be referred to a panel of experts for resolution.

But the agreement applies only to abstractions by Severn Trent Water. Mr Richards said the NFU would to press for a change to national law to ensure proper protection for all who farmed near public groundwater supplies. &#42