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East Anglia: NFU seeks ‘fair share’ of water for agriculture under abstraction licensing reforms

PUBLISHED: 12:59 26 January 2014

Slb_014 NFU water talk 1

Slb_014 NFU water talk 1

Planned reforms of the licensiing regime governing water abstraction must allow a fair share for agriculture, a senior National Farmers’ Union leader has said during a visit to Suffolk.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “If we are going to grow high value, high quality fruit and vegetables we need access to a secure supply of water.

“This Government consultation is very important and this will be a big issue for the NFU in the months ahead,” he added.

Mr Raymond was speaking at the Riverside Centre at Stratford St Andrew, at the first of six consultation meetings organised by the NFU to brief irrigators on the proposals.

Paul Hammett, the NFU’s national water resources specialist, said the Government was committed to the “most radical overhaul of irrigation licensing for 50 years”, with the aim of developing a new system that promoted economic growth while protecting the environment.

Under the proposals, the existing system of licences would be replaced by abstraction permissions (APs), with no termination date.

Separate licences for winter or summer abstraction would disappear, with APs containing conditions that linked access to water availability instead. This would allow higher flows to be abstracted all year, not just in winter, but would restrict use on all abstractors during very low river flows, said Mr Hammett.

The consultation also includes proposals for a simplified system of water trading, which the Government believes will lead to more reservoir construction.

The NFU has produced a detailed guide on the proposals for members on its website www.nfuonline.com and it is holding a further consultation meeting for Suffolk farmers at the NFU Regional Office in Newmarket on Friday, February 7. The Government’s consultation closes on March 28.

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