A farmer has been refused short-term renewal of water abstractions due to its ’possible’ harm to conservation.
A farmer has been refused renewal of two abstraction licenses on the Catfield Fen, Norfolk.
He had been using agricultural water abstraction for irrigation since 1986 for local potato and salad production.
The licenses were refused on the basis the water abstraction ’could’ harm the special area of conservation and the Environmental Agency could not rule it out as a potential factor.
Catfield Fen is protected under the habitats directive and regulations because of rare plants like the Fen orchid.
When the appeal was considered, there was evidence to suggest the conditions of the conservation were changing because of water pH levels.
It found the abstraction could have a ‘possible’ impact on vegetation if it were to continue until the next renewal date of March 2018.
During the appeal the special habitat conservation concentrated on precautionary principles. If an action has a suspected risk of causing harm and there is no evidence to say it does not, it must be dismissed until it can be proved harmless.
The environmental agency decision to refuse the renewal was therefore upheld.
NFU national specialist in water resources Paul Hammett said the NFU were disappointed with the decision but were hopeful in the reassurance this refusal was ’entirely site specific’.
“Clearly we are disappointed with the outcome of the Catfield case," he said.
"The NFU supported this case financially through its Legal Assistance Scheme because it was important to challenge the way that the ‘precautionary principle’ applies to Special Areas of Conservation like Catfield Fen.
“But we are clear that the decision focuses on the facts and evidence surrounding Catfield Fen only and so has no impact on abstraction licences in the Norfolk Broads or beyond."