On 21 July the Government published its response to the earlier consultation.
The key points are said to be :
- England will continue to designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) on a selective basis, based on scientific evidence, rather than adopt the whole territory approach of some Member States. Following the recent review, about 70 per cent of England needs to be designated – up from 55 per cent – and around 1.5 per cent of areas will be de-designated;
- The proposal for cover crops to reduce run-off from bare ground has been dropped;
- The Government will pursue a derogation from the European Commission on the 170 kg/ha whole farm nitrogen loading limit;
- Closed periods and storage capacity will remain as set out in the consultation, but there will be transitional arrangements for meeting the requirements. Further work will be undertaken to assess whether the risk of nitrate loss in winter months extends to January;
- A package of advice will be provided, including workshops and a helpline, to support farmers in making changes. Slurry storage facilities will be eligible for tax allowances on capital costs up to £50,000 per year;
- Maps of NVZs and guidance on the Action programme measures will be published alongside the Regulations in September;
- Defra is now developing plans for appeals against designation. Further details will be published in due course.