A group of 80 farmers may have saved millions of pounds after mounting a successful challenge to a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone designation.
Designations are reviewed every four years under NVZ regulations and the 80-strong group of Staffordshire farmers found themselves drawn into the river Dove catchment zone.
Each farmer would have faced estimated costs of £50,000 in constructing extra slurry storage capacity and changes in slurry management, if the designation had been upheld.
But an appeal panel agreed that the designation was “unsupported” and confirmed that the watercourse “was not polluted with nitrates”.
DEFRA has now confirmed the area will be removed from the NVZ-based on the appeal decision.
The successful appeal was spearheaded by three NFU branches and consultancy group Hafren Water.
Sarah Faulkner, NFU environmental policy adviser, said: “This decision is not just a victory for our members but one for common sense.
“There is little scientific evidence to support the tightened NVZ regulations which have significantly increased the costs to individual farmers – particularly those with larger livestock and dairy businesses.”
She added that efforts to overturn other designations, which remained in place along stretches of the river Dove catchment, would continue.
“The NVZ legislation is nothing more than an unnecessary burden dumped on farmers and the evidence shows these stretches are not polluted by the farming industry,” Ms Faulkner said.
She blamed significant sources of nitrate pollution from sewage treatment works in these areas.
NVZs were introduced by the Government in 2002, following pressure from the EU, as part of a drive to improve water quality. The zones are assessed every four years.
An NFU spokesman said the NFU had always argued the NVZ rules were disproportionate and based on questionable science with Environment Agency data showing declining nitrate trends across the country.
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Farmers given 28 days to lodge NVZ appeals