9 June 1995

Long sheep quota battle won at last

By Liz Mason

DERBYSHIRE farmer Ron Eyre has won a long-standing battle with MAFF to gain sheep quota from the national reserve.

Mr Eyre, chairman of the NFUs county livestock group, was refused Less Favoured Area quota from the 1993 national reserve because MAFF would not accept his farm business plan as evidence of developer status (News, Dec 9, 1994).

He decided to fight the decision and went to Birmingham solicitors, Shakespeares, to seek advice. They put his case together, with help from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Mr Eyre also contacted High Peak MP Charles Hendry. He took up the case with junior farm minister Michael Jack, who ordered officials to review it.

In a letter to Mr Hendry, Mr Jack said officials were now "satisfied that Mr Eyre meets the eligibility criteria as a developer". He said Mr Eyre would receive 150 LFA quota units scaled back to 131 units or 87.5% of his entitlement.

"I was turned down on three occasions by the local office in Nottingham," said Mr Eyre, who was delighted with the support offered by his MP and solicitor. "It just proves that they (MAFF) were asking for evidence they didnt need to have.

"It is up to sheep farmers out there now to look to the evidence they have got and contact their MPs, because the NFU is not fighting their case for them."

Three-year plan

Mr Eyres three-year development plan was accepted by his bank when he applied for a loan to buy 38ha (69 acres) of land adjoining the farm at Abney, near Hathersage. He planned to keep another 150 ewes on the land and applied to the reserve as a genuine developer.

to top up his initial allocation of 494 units.

But his business plan was dismissed by MAFF as "insufficient evidence". Mr Jack said in his letter that Mr Eyres "documentary evidence clearly met some of the eligibility criteria in that it was dated before Jan 1, 1993, and was verified by bank officials".

But the loan was taken out to buy additional land, not additional sheep, added Mr Jack. "Officials, therefore, believed, in good faith, that the documentation failed to satisfy all of the eligibility criteria for this category and the original decision was upheld."

Lawyers have since advised MAFF that, in Mr Eyres case, investment in sheep was "inseparable" from investment in land because Mr Eyre clearly planned to run more sheep.

"On this basis his application should be considered eligible," added Mr Jack.