Farmers quizzed on impact of agriculture
Consultation has started on new rules which should help protect the environment from agricultural damage.The proposed environmental impact assessment regulations are designed to bring Britain into line with new European standards.
According to Defra they will make life easier for farmers by cutting red tape and simplifying existing rules which protect uncultivated and semi-natural land from damage from agricultural grounds works and farming practices.
They would also bring in new EIA rules to operations aiming to restructure land holdings.
This would include projects such stripping out hedgerows, ditches and walls, filling or digging lakes and major land flattening works.
The new rules will apply when such work is likely to have significant effects on the environment.
Anyone wishing to do such work will have to apply to the new Natural England super-agency to see whether environmental impact assessment is required.
If it is required, the assessment will then decide whether the work should be allowed to proceed.
Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight said: "We need to get this right, and the views of stakeholders and the wider public will be vital to achieving that.
"The new rules need to strike a balance between giving targeted protection to our landscape and biodiversity, and giving farmers the flexibility to go about the business of sustainable agriculture.
"These new regulations need to complement recent changes to farm subsidies and the launch of Environmental Stewardship.
"Taken together, these changes promise to transform the rural environment over the years and decades ahead."
Further information on the consultation can be found on Defra's website.
The deadline for responses to the consultation is 14 November 2005.
By Sam Bond