'New authorisations' application deadline extended for 'previously exempt' abstractions

A photograph of a reservoir in Norfolk

The original deadline for submitting ‘validated’ applications to the Environment Agency was 31 December 2019.

Click here to read the Environment Agency announcement for more information.

The NFU welcomes the extension of the transitional arrangements and we are urging all members who could potentially need a new authorisations abstraction licence to act now without delay.

A number of abstraction activities that have been previously exempt from the abstraction licensing regime (referred to as new authorisations) cannot continue without an abstraction licence.

For the farming and growing sector, the biggest impact of regulatory change is that all forms of irrigation, including trickle, now requires a licence. This has been a relatively high profile issue and we are satisfied that most (but not all) affected growers have now submitted applications for new abstraction licences.

We are concerned however that farmers and growers who abstract water within so-called previously ‘exempt geographical areas’ may still be unaware of the need to take action.

There is clearly ongoing confusion surrounding the need for some landowners to apply for abstraction licences for managed wetland systems and water level management plans. Furthermore, some landowners may need a ‘transfer licence’ to permit the transfer of water between different water bodies.

Although these sites are described as ‘managed’ they need very little active management and many land owners are still unaware that licensing regulations could apply to their use and management of water.

It is clear that the regulatory position faced by some farmers and growers is complicated, hence our call for more time for them to ensure they take appropriate steps to remain compliant.

The following previously exempt activities now need an abstraction licence:

  • All forms of irrigation including trickle irrigation
  • Abstractions within previously ‘exempt geographical areas’
  • Transfer of water by a navigation, harbour or conservancy authority
  • Transfer of water into and between internal drainage districts
  • Dewatering mines, quarries and engineering works
  • Warping (abstraction of water containing silt for deposit onto agricultural land)
  • Abstractions for managed wetland systems and water level management plans
  • Most abstractions operated by The Crown and visiting forces, and the Ministry of Defence

For all these previously exempt activities, an abstraction licence will be required where the abstraction exceeds 20 cubic metres (4,400 gallons) per day. Where this daily threshold is never exceeded, then a new licence should not be required.

The NFU has produced a series of guidance notes for members.

The regulatory process surrounding ‘new authorisations’ can be complicated and members should seek further information from the Environment Agency available online which explains how to apply for a new abstraction licence for a previously exempt abstraction.

For help with completing the application forms and for general information and guidance, telephone the Environment Agency hotline on 03708 506506 or write to ZW5xdWlyaWVzQGVudmlyb25tZW50LWFnZW5jeS5nb3YudWs=

In order to safeguard existing rights of access to abstracted water, members should always consider seeking professional help and support.

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