29 August 1997

No increase in ESA land area, despite demands

MAFF has resisted calls from farmers to expand the area of land in environmentally sensitive areas, but has added additional management tiers in certain regions.

The review of 11 ESAs led to few boundary changes but new positive prescriptions in the Suffolk River Valleys and Lake District, according to the NFU.

Andrew Clark, NFU environment adviser, said he was disappointed that once again calls for the Quantock Hills to be incorporated into the Exmoor ESA had been rejected despite the unions south-west branch sending MAFF 50 reasons for the amalgamation.

But Mr Clark said he was pleased that MAFF had proposed an intermediate heather fell tier in the Lake District, which will allow farmers to keep all their ewes on fell grazings and prevent them from losing hardiness.

The union is also delighted that new prescriptions in the Suffolk River Valleys will allow farmers to plough semi-improved grassland after the union warned that the restrictions were affecting pasture quality.

Changes are also proposed to the Avon Valley ESA, which has had one of the lowest take-ups, and there are possibilities that if levels do not rise, the scheme could be integrated alongside those for countryside stewardship and habitats. &#42