After a lengthy delay, Defra has now said farmers who find themselves in a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) from 2021 to 2024 will be given an opportunity to appeal against the decision over the coming months.
Towards the end of 2020, the NFU was told there would be no changes to existing NVZ designations, but farmers with land inside the boundaries would still be given the chance to appeal in the new year.
Regrettably, this process has been delayed considerably. However, farmers are now expected to receive letters from Defra in September. A further two batches of letters are expected to be sent in October and November.
In the past, these separate batches have been sent to specific geographic regions, but it is currently unclear as to who they will be sent this year.
This year's appeals process falls at a very busy time for many farmers and growers, and arrives amid a lot of uncertainty brought on by Farming Rules for Water and autumn spreading of manures restrictions. For these reasons, the NFU asked Defra to delay the letters going out to farmers for around six to eight weeks. Defra has agreed to a three-week delay so it still meets legal obligations and the appeals window does not run over the Christmas and New Year period.
However, we advise those interested in launching an appeal to start preparing now as you will only have a 28-day window from the letter date to launch your appeal.
Access a 2021-2024 designation map
Given that NVZ designations have not changed from those in place between 2017 and 2020, it is likely you will already know whether all or part of your farm falls within one. However, you can now access an interactive map of pre-appeals 2021 to 2024 designations on the Environment Agency website. Simply enter your location in the bar at the top.
A dialogue box should then pop up and, by using the arrows to navigate, you can view the reason for designation.
In some cases, your farm may fall within more than one designation. This is because the same land can designated for three different reasons: surface water pollution, groundwater pollution, and eutrophic coastal waters, estuaries, or lakes.