Farmers in England and Wales have been urged to check whether their land has been correctly included in the expanded nitrate vulnerable zone.

DEFRA has agreed to reconsider NVZ designations in England if farmers can prove that their land has been wrongly assessed.

They have until 31 January to provide evidence that their land does not drain to a water body, or that the water body their land does drain to has been wrongly classified as polluted.

Michael Payne, NFU NVZ consultant, said while the number of successful appeals was likely to be small, it was worth farmers investigating if they were correctly included in the zone.

“With the new controls, being in an NVZ is much more serious than it was before, so it’s worth checking to see,” he said. “You might be one of the lucky ones.”

Mr Payne said he expected farmers to have up to three months to gather evidence, but said an appeal needed to be lodged, with some supporting material, by the end of the month.

“DEFRA published its appeal arrangements on 10 December, considerably later than expected. We are expecting the panel, which will be made up of independent experts, to allow a further period to allow farmers to gather evidence.

“There will be a parallel appeals process in Wales, being carried out by planning inspectors,” he added. “That has just begun and farmers there will have until 31 March to submit appeals.”

NVZ appeals process
Who can appeal? Owners and occupiers of land in any NVZ
Who will decide appeals? An independent panel of technical and legal experts. DEFRA will accept the findings of the panel
How must appeals be made? In writing by completing a form and enclosing evidence supporting the appeal
What is the deadline? 31 January, though it is likely there will be longer to submit extra evidence
What can be challenged? Mistakes which could affect designations are if the land has been assessed as draining to the wrong water body, or if the water body the land drains to has been wrongly classed as polluted.
For further details on the appeals process
Source: NFU

NVZ Key rules

  • Farmers in NVZs must provide six months’ storage for pig slurry and poultry manure and five months’ storage for slurry from other livestock, such as cattle. Poultry manure and solid manures must be stored either in livestock housing, at a suitable temporary field site, or on an impermeable base.
  • Total livestock manure production on farms must not exceed 170kg/ha/year.
  • Average nitrogen application rates must not exceed the maximum application rate (NMax) for each crop type.
  • Organic manures with high readily available nitrogen content, such as slurry and poultry manure, may not be spread on grassland on sandy or shallow soils between 1 September and 31 December and on all other soils between 15 October and 15 January. They may not be spread on arable land on sandy or shallow soils between 1 August and 31 Dec and on all other soils between 1 October and 15 January.
  • Manufactured nitrogen fertiliser may not be spread to grassland between 15 September and 15 January and to arable land between 1 September and 15 January.
  • More detailed guidance on NVZ rules