4 January 2002
New land law could carry sting

By FWi staff

NEW laws designed to protect uncultivated and semi-natural land could cost producers 2000 each, claims the National Farmers Union.

A regulation which comes into effect next month requires environmental assessments before new land is brought into intensive production.

Where significant environmental effects seemed likely, farmers would be asked to pay for the preparation of an environmental statement.

Categories believed to be affected include unimproved grassland, heath, moorland and wetland, and land with less than 25% of sown grass species.

Andrew Clark, National Farmers Union head of environment, said such a document could cost producers 1000-2000.

“The trouble with it is that it is a potentially vague type of regulation that makes it difficult for farmers to know exactly what they can do,” he said.

Oliver Harwood, of the Country Land and Business Association, said farmers were considering ploughing up fields before the law takes effect.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs could help to avoid ploughing up fields by producing guidance, he said.

“It should explain what land is affected and what land is not going to need a scoping assessment,” Mr Harwood added.

“Until Defra publish guidance all we have is draft regulations to go on. You cant base land management decisions on draft documents.”