NVZ appeals procedure looks unlikely to cope
By Peter Bullen
HUNDREDS of farmers and landowners could be caught up in a fresh row over the governments nitrate vulnerable zones plans.
The government has drawn up an appeals procedure that sets an almost impossible time-table.
More than 500 sets of written evidence were submitted in the first consultation period. Although this has resulted in boundary changes to 31 of the 72 proposed NVZs, the NFU expects hundreds of farmers and landowners to register further objections.
But NFU deputy president Tony Pexton said all protests must be submitted by July 31 to the three-man independent review panel set up by government.
The panel itself has even less time. It has to respond to the objections by Sept 29, "regardless of the volume of appeals."
Even then the government could ignore the panels views on the appeals in its efforts to fix the final designations of NVZs by the end of this year, warned Mr Pexton.
As well as sharing the NFUs concern over the appeals procedure, the Country Landowners Association is planning to lobby the government over several aspects of its nitrate pollution control policy.
Water adviser Dr Alan Woods said the CLA was particularly worried that the uncertainties over possible future restrictions on farming would hit land values.
Like the NFU it will also press for compensation for any cutbacks beyond good farming practise in the use of organic manure.
• Both organisations voiced disappointment over National Rivers Authority draft figures which showed farm pollution of water-courses shot up last year to 3329 incidents. This was 446 more than the previous year and the highest since 1988.
Although the wet winter was probably to blame the NFU and the CLA said the figures underlined their protests last November at MAFFs decision to axe farm waste-handling grants.
The grants cost the ministry £150m over five years. It has promised to reintroduce them in NVZs.