Hundreds of Derbyshire and Staffordshire farmers have seen off “disproportionate” restrictions that could have left them facing potentially costly controls.
The First Tier Tribunal determination, dated 4 January, said there was “a question mark over whether an NVZ designation of the Dove catchment area would, in reality, succeed in reducing the concentration of TIN (total inorganic nitrogen) in the River Trent by any meaningful degree given the Respondent accepts that the River Dove is not polluted and, therefore, it must follow that agricultural sources of N are also of limited intensity in this region”.
The determination said: “If the tribunal is correct in this analysis, it would appear the measures the Respondent is seeking to employ by expanding the NVZ designation in an effort to improve water quality in a very modest length of the River Trent amounts to the proverbial sledge hammer to crack a nut approach.”
The tribunal added that to designate a large catchment area to protect only a very small length of the main stem of a river was “unusual and disproportionate”.
The River Dove catchment is around 1,200 square kilometres in area with around 800 farms in it and 200 farmers contributed towards the cost of the appeal with help from the NFU’s legal assistance scheme.
Ms Sarah Belton, Hafren senior hydrogeologist, said:“This is a landmark win based on the legal principles of proportionality and polluter-pays.
“The recent deterioration in water quality in the River Trent was primarily due to the lack of dilution of upstream urban nitrate sources (sewage) during the 2011 drought.
“We were able to obtain, analyse and present the required river quality data to prove this.
“It would have been completely nonsensical to penalise farmers within the River Dove catchment for pollution of the River Trent when they did not contribute to it.”
For the latest appeal a comprehensive dossier of evidence was submitted after farmers and growers were given the opportunity to challenge the NVZ status.
The NFU regional team and Hafren worked closely with affected farmers and their group secretaries to keep members up-to-date with the latest on the regulations and the appeal process.