12 July 2002

Warning over ploughed land

THE government has warned farmers who are about to plough uncultivated or semi-natural land that they could fall foul of new environmental laws.

Since February 2002, anyone wishing to bring land into production must first consider whether it needs consent under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.

The new laws mean farmers have to wait up to 35 days for DEFRA to assess whether their plans would have "unacceptable environmental effects".

In a statement, DEFRA warned that an extension to the time limit may be required at peak times, which would delay ploughing.

The warning came as ploughs returned to the fields after the statutory July 1 deadline for the destruction of set aside land passed.

The EIA regulations were brought in to comply with an EU directive aimed at protecting uncultivated land.

Unimproved grassland, scrubland, heath, moorland and wetlands are covered by the regulations. &#42

Farmers unsure of whether their ploughing plans would be restricted are advised to get in touch with DEFRA, which will consider the farming practices on the land over the last 15 years.