Saturday, March 28, 2020

Deadline extended for previously exempt abstraction licences

February 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Crops

The application deadline for farmers to apply for a water abstraction licence for previously exempt activities has been extended by six months.

The original deadline for submitting valid applications to the Environment Agency was 31 December 2019. This has now been extended to 30 June 2020 – giving farmers an extra six months to benefit from favourable transition arrangements.

“This good news benefits trickle irrigators, wetland operators and other previously exempt abstracting businesses that still need to apply if they wish to continue abstracting,” said the agency.

The NFU said it welcomed the extension. It is urging all farmers who could potentially need a new authorisations abstraction licence to act without delay. This includes many farmers and growers previously exempt from the abstraction licensing regime.

Biggest impact

The biggest impact of regulatory change is that all forms of irrigation – including trickle – now requires a licence. The NFU said it was are satisfied that most – but not all – affected growers had now submitted applications for new abstraction licences.

But NFU water specialist Paul Hammett said: “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.”

Confusion also surrounded 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 were described as managed, they need very little active management and many landowners were still unaware that licensing regulations could apply to their use and management of water, said Mr Hammett.

Complex position

For all previously exempt activities (see right), an abstraction licence will be required where  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.

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

He added: “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.”

For further details and help completing application, call the Environment Agency hotline on 03708 506506 or email enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

Previously exempt activities now needing a 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, visiting forces, and the MoD

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