flooded fields© Charlotte Graham/REX Shutterstock

Natural England has temporarily lifted stewardship restrictions and rules on protected sites to help farmers hit by widespread flooding in northern England.

The government agency said its concerns and sympathies were with farmers and communities who had suffered terribly from devastating storms on 4-6 December.

“We are temporarily lifting all the requirements that normally apply to Environmental Stewardship agreements and protected sites,” it said.

See also: Landslide rips through sheep shed on Cumbria farm

Natural England said it was working with farmers and the Environment Agency to deal with the impact of severe flooding on lives, farm businesses and wildlife in Cumbria and elsewhere.

Simon Humphries, Natural England’s area manager for Cumbria, said easing the restrictions would help farmers deal with the problems caused by terrible weather.

“Farmers are facing some incredibly difficult conditions on their land due to the recent floods and we want to provide help and advice, wherever we can, to support the farming community.

“We hope that this temporary lifting of restrictions will go some way to helping farmers at this difficult time.

“Our priority is always public safety and we urge people to keep up to date with the latest situation by paying close attention to advice from the Environment Agency.”

David Morley, environmental advisor for land agents H&H, said farmers who could not fulfil their obligations due to the floods should contact Natural England as soon as possible.

He said: “This means farmers can get on with whatever work is needed to ameliorate flood damage without worrying about breaching their ES agreement or falling foul of SSSI legislation.”

Farmers should contact Natural England as soon as they could safely assess the impact of flooding, either through their local adviser or via the Technical Services team on 03000 600 011.

In some cases, farmers may need to complete a Derogation Notice to formalise a temporary change in the agreed management, said Mr Morley.

Farmers who had applied for Countryside Stewardship agreements this year may need to provide photographic records or other additional information to support their application by 15 December.

Mr Morley said: “If farmers believe they may have difficulty in providing this information as a consequence of the floods, they should contact Natural England as soon as possible.

“There is no guarantee the agreement can be processed without the supporting information, but Natural England are offering to be as flexible as possible within the constraints of the scheme.”