NVZ appeals: what to do if you receive a letter

Published 07 January 2022


Find out about the current NVZ appeals process and how we're supporting members.

Who can appeal?

Farmers with land that drains into an NVZ in the Solway Tweed, Northumbria, and Humber River Basin districts may now appeal against their NVZ designation but the deadline to do so is approaching. Defra should have sent all affected farmers a dated notification letter and you will have 28 days from that date to lodge an appeal.

We are currently in the process of writing to members who we – and our partner, consultants Hafren Water and Associates – believe stand a moderate to good chance of appealing successfully. We particularly encourage farmers in this situation to contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 for advice and support.

Solway Tweed



Read on to find out more about the current NVZ appeals process and how we are supporting members.

Why are NVZ appeal letters being issued?

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.

After a lengthy delay, farmers who find themselves in a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) from 2021 to 2024 are being given an opportunity to appeal against the decision over the coming months.

It has been four years since Defra reviewed the spatial coverage of NVZs in England. Defra had originally planned to issue the first batch of notification letters triggering the appeal process in early September. We lobbied and successfully secured a delay in the timing of these letters due to the uncertainty around Farming Rules for Water restrictions on spreading manures this autumn.

When am I likely to receive a notification letter?

The first batch of notification letters was sent out by Defra to farmers and growers in the Thames and South East River Basin districts in October. If you received one of these letters, the deadline to lodge an appeal against the decision was 28 days from the date on your notification letter.

The second batch of letters was sent out by Defra to farmers and growers in the South West, Severn, Anglian, Dee and North West River Basin districts on 26 November. If you received one of these letters, the deadline to lodge an appeal against the decision was 28 days from the date on your notification letter.

The third batch of notification letters was sent out by Defra to farmers and growers in the Humber, Northumbria and Solway Tweed River Basin districts on 4 January 2022. If you receive one of these letters, the deadline to lodge an appeal against the decision is 28 days from the date on your notification letter.

How we can help

Appeals to Defra can only be submitted if land does not drain into water identified as polluted or if land drains into water that should not be identified as polluted.

As with past appeal windows, we are working closely with Hafren Water & Associates to support members through the appeals process. Together, we have already identified NVZs where there is a strong chance of appeal success, though success can never be guaranteed. We will be contacting members within these designations shortly after Defra sends its letters in order to flag the opportunity and the support we can provide.

We can offer general guidance on NVZ designations and how to appeal against incorrect designations. Hafren Water & Associates supported our members with appeals in previous reviews in 2012 and 2016. In 2016/17 it acted on behalf of 200 landholders in nearly 40 river and groundwater catchments achieving a high rate of successful outcomes and will be providing similar support during the current review.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said:

“NVZ designations are only reviewed every four years, so it’s really important to check if you’re in one. Given the tight timescale for the appeal window, we urge our members to contact NFU CallFirst as soon as they are in receipt of their notifications letters to receive initial advice, before they are referred to Hafren Water & Associates for support towards any potential appeal.”

NFU members subscribed to our Legal Assistance Scheme will receive financial support towards the cost of appeals undertaken by Hafren Water & Associates. You can also contact your regional environment adviser who will be forming groups at local levels to go through the appeal process, making the process easier, more manageable and cost effective. 

  • For more information on the NVZ appeals process in 2021, please contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

More information about the NFU Legal Assistance Scheme

The NFU Legal Assistance Scheme is a discretionary member benefit available to all NFU Farmer and Grower members for an additional cost of £35 plus VAT. The scheme provides professional guidance and financial contributions towards legal and other professional costs for members facing legal disputes relating to their farming and growing businesses.

More information about Hafren Water and Associates

Hafren Water and Associates, a specialist practice based in Shropshire, provides a range of advice, from supportive information to detailed appeals documentation and expert witness services. It has a thorough understanding of the NVZ designation methodology and significant experience in the appeal process.  It has previously supported NFU members (both individuals and groups) with their appeals during past NVZ reviews and will be doing the same this year.

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.

Detailed guidance for NFU members

NFU members can download more information on NVZ designations and the appeals process below.

How to log in: Use your membership number or the email address associated with your membership. If you've forgotten your password, use this form to reset it or contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

If you do lodge an appeal independently, please call the NFU CallFirst team in the New Year to make them aware.

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