Where there's much, tax it

THE stink in the countryside over plans to tax composed horse manure has reached Parliament with the Conservatives calling on the Government to justify the measure.

By Graham Dines

THE stink in the countryside over plans to tax composed horse manure has reached Parliament with the Conservatives calling on the Government to justify the measure.

With riding stables and other equestrian businesses leading the protests, Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice wants ministers to release documents relating to the decision to require new permits costing up to £482 from all businesses that compost muck to use as fertiliser.

Mr Paice, a former farmer from Framlingham in Suffolk who is MP for Cambridgeshire South East, said yesterday: "The Government must justify this tax before equestrian businesses suffer the consequences.


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"Horses have been around for thousands of years - where is the evidence that horse manure causes harm?"

Mr Paice added: "Countless small rural enterprises have been driven to the wall in recent years by unnecessary regulations which Britain is alone in enforcing and this appears to be yet another example.

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"We heard promises before the election that Labour would regulate less but it is clear that it just cannot help itself."

Andrew Mowlah, head of research for the Forum of Private Business, said the legislation would hit smaller businesses hardest. "For small yards composting is a viable and much used alternative. Manure has been spread for as long as land has been farmed. It is ludicrous now to suddenly slap a stealth tax on the industry."

Mr Mowlah said the legislation comes as a double whammy – from July 1, in order to compost, waste businesses will need to install leakproof concrete flooring beneath muck heaps with a sealed holding tank for the liquid which runs off - all at a cost which could run into thousands of pounds.

A spokesman for the Department Food, Environment and Rural Affairs said that if the muck heap is simply manure, stable owners will not have to pay for a waste licence.

Manure from privately kept horses is classified as household waste and will be exempt from the law. But manure from businesses is classified as industrial waste, so the way it is kept, treated and disposed of is currently subject to the Waste Management and Licensing Regulations (1994).

These regulations say muck can be taken away by a licensed remover unless it is composted on site for use as a fertiliser.

A muck heap of less than five tonnes will not incur a charge. Heaps of between five and 50 tonnes will cost £252 for the first year and £174 thereafter, while heaps of 50 to 400 tonnes will cost £482 for the first year and £402 each year after that.

The average horse produces nine tonnes of manure a year.

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