NVZ grassland derogation application 2024

Environment and climate
Cows standing in a field

Farm businesses with holdings within NVZ (Nitrate Vulnerable Zones) are now able to apply for an annual grassland derogation for their activities in 2024. The EA may still consider late applications – act now if you are yet to apply.

This application window represents a return to normal timescales for officials, who had opened the previous window part way through 2023. As a result, some farmers may still be waiting on a decision for 2023, even as the 2024 opens.

Regardless, all farmers who wish to secure a derogation for 2024 will need to submit a fresh application, with the process remaining the same as last year.

Given the overlapping windows, the NFU had asked officials to simplify the process for 2024 to no avail, but multi-year application windows remain a key ask for us.

If granted, the derogation allows farm business to use a higher limit of up to 250kg of nitrogen per hectare providing the nitrogen comes from grazing livestock manure. Read the full Defra guidance at: GOV.UK | Grassland derogations for livestock manure in nitrate vulnerable zones

NFU Dairy Board chair Michael Oakes said: “The NVZ Grassland derogation is a critical tool which enables applicants to continue operating viable businesses and plan for the year ahead. Following the delays in 2023, the opening of the 2024 window represents an opportunity to return to normal timescales and provide farming businesses with some certainty for the year ahead.

“However, given that the last window only closed in early July, and some may still be waiting for a response to their applications, it is vital that government clearly communicates the opening of this second window to all producers and the process of reapplying is as simple and smooth as possible.

“The NFU continues to lobby for multi-year derogations to be introduced to reflect the long-term nature of dairy and livestock farming and nutrient management planning and to reduce the administrative burden and provide producers with the confidence to plan for their business.”

Making an application

Applications should have been made by 31 December 2023 by telephoning the EA (Environment Agency) on 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am - 6pm) or emailing: [email protected] 

Successful applicants will be notified by the EA.

While the official application window has now closed, the EA may consider late applications. If you would like to make an application after 31 December 2023, you should still make your application in the usual way. This is time-limited and potential applicants are encouraged to act quickly. 

To calculate the various measures, it is recommended to use the following guidance – GOV.UK | Grassland derogations for livestock manure in nitrate vulnerable zones.

Who is eligible for a derogation?

You can apply for a grassland derogation to use a higher limit of up to 250kg of nitrogen per hectare, if the nitrogen comes from grazing livestock manure. Grazing livestock include:

  • cattle (except for veal calves)
  • sheep
  • deer
  • goats
  • horses
  • manure from veal calves, pigs or poultry is not eligible for a derogation and is subject to the 170kg/ha limit.

You can only apply for a derogation if at least 80% of the agricultural area of your holding is grass. The agricultural area is the part of your holding you use for agricultural purposes.

See Grassland derogations for livestock manure in nitrate vulnerable zones - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Use the EA’s Check for Drinking Water Safeguard Zones and NVZs interactive map to check whether your land is within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.

What if my application is unsuccessful?

If you do not meet the eligibility criteria or do not apply within the specified dates, your application may be refused.

If you had a derogation during a previous year but did not follow all the conditions for that derogation the EA may also refuse to grant you a derogation.

HRA assessments

If your farm falls within or is near a European site designated under the Habitats Regulations the EA is required to carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). This includes where your farm is within the catchment of a European site that is in unfavourable conservation status due to nutrient pollution.

Such assessments may become more common within the application process, you will be advised if your application is being subjected to an appropriate assessment.

If your farm is determined to meet these criteria an Appropriate assessment – GOV.UK will be undertaken and may involve consultation with Natural England. If the HRA shows that granting a derogation would have an adverse effect on a European site your application may be declined.

How to appeal if your application is refused

You can appeal within 30 days of your application being refused. An independent panel will consider your appeal.

Derogation conditions

If granted you must meet all the conditions of your derogation and follow the rules that apply when using nitrogen fertilisers and storing organic manures in NVZs.

See Grassland derogations for livestock manure in nitrate vulnerable zones - GOV.UK.


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This page was first published on 09 November 2023. It was updated on 02 January 2024.


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