Big IPPC bills in UK, but no charge for some in EU
By Isabel Davies
WHILE British farmers face bills of thousands of £s some EU countries will not charge their farmers for the implementation of the impending Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control directive when it is introduced in 2003.
Giving evidence to an inquiry into environmental regulation and farming, Environment Agency officials admitted that other European farmers might not face charges, despite the IPPC directive being European legislation.
Mark Kibblewhite, head of land quality, told MPs on the agriculture select committee that the governments decision to charge pig and poultry producers for implementing IPPC stems from UK rather than EU legislation.
"In some countries the regulatory cost will not be charged back. Cost recovery is entirely discretionary," he said. He declined to say which countries.
Farmers have been horrified by the agencys proposed charges for IPPC permits which could amount to an initial fee of up to £18,000 and an annual subsistence charge of about £7000.
Producers affected include farmers who have units housing more than 750 sows, 2000 finishers over 30kg or 40,000 birds. Existing units housing these numbers will require them by 2003 for poultry and 2004 for pigs. Bigger units will be subject to further charges.
But when questioned about the figures put forward, Paul Leinster, director of environmental protection, said the EA had a duty to recover all regulatory costs.
The charge covered the cost of a EA inspector both on and off farm, technical support, technical development and research and development, he said. He revealed that the charges had been calculated based on an average requirement of 10-15 days per holding using an average daily charge rate of £1215.
After a frustrating hour of questioning, Paul Marsden, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, told the senior EA officials that they were "coming across as amateurish".
Mr Marsden said many farmers would be disappointed by their answers to the inquiry.
Their answers were "vague and woolly" and there were too many questions for which they still had no answers, he said.
Responding, Dr Leinster said the accusations were unjust. "We have worked hard with industry to find a way forward. I think we have got that way forward."
Environment minister, Michael Meacher, told the committee that IPPC charges had not yet been settled. The government was aware that the proposed charges were high and had asked the EA to look again. *
Meacher backs common land
GOVERNMENT is committed to maintaining the viability of farms dependent on common grazing, particularly those in the uplands, says environment minister Michael Meacher.
Launching a consultation document, Greater Protection and Better Management of Common Land in England and Wales, he told 250 farmers at an NFU-organised conference in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, that government wanted to ensure the protection and preservation of common land and that its traditional farming methods should continue.
And he urged farmers, landowners and commoners to respond to the consultation, adding that their views would be taken into account alongside those of walkers and conservationists.
Subject to management needs, commons should be open for everyone to enjoy, Mr Meacher said.
The government was particularly keen to hear views on the registration of commons. "We want to ensure that the registration system for common land is fair and effective. It must operate alongside a land management system that meets the different needs of commoners as well as protecting the environment of these 0.5m hectares," he said.
Improved protection for unclaimed commons and those no longer subject to the rights of common was also needed. Government proposed to allow incorrectly registered common land to be removed from registers to rectify the unfairness suffered by some landowners due to historical inaccurate mapping.
Farm management problems on commons, such as over-grazing, also had to be addressed, Mr Meacher said. "The question is whether government should introduce regulatory powers to deal with these matters. Creating an open discussion on these topics is the role of the consultation document."
NFU president, Ben Gill, told farmers weekly that he believed urgent legislation was needed to correct the "unacceptable anomalies" affecting common land.
"We need to move from a situation where you have people with commoners rights who have nothing at all to do with the common and whose actions can cause all sorts of problems to genuine graziers," he said. A solution was long overdue. *