“Environmental Impact Assessment” Agriculture Regulations

Do you know what they cover?  – check out this article from Natural England …

Our countryside contains some very special places, rich in wildlife, history and landscape features.  To avoid loss of these features from our public heritage, the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations require farmers to go through a screening process for certain projects that make changes to rural land.  Screening selects out the projects with a likely significant environmental effect for further assessment, letting the rest proceed as planned.

  • If you are planning to make changes to rural land, it is worth refreshing your understanding of the EIA (Agriculture) Regulations 2006 (as amended). 
  • Beginning or carrying out a relevant project without a screening decision from Natural England is an offence under the Regulations and is also a breach of Cross Compliance.
  • Failure to comply with the Regulations can result in enforcement action from Natural England and/or penalties from RPA on your BPS and agri-environment payments. 

Screening application

You must apply to Natural England for a screening decision if you are:

 Carrying out an uncultivated land project:

  • Increasing the productivity of land for agriculture on uncultivated or semi-natural area that is equal to or over the 2 ha threshold.

Carrying out a restructuring project:

  • Altering field boundaries over 4 km long (or 2 km long in protected landscapes), including fencing on commons;
  • Moving or redistributing earth over 10,000 cubic metres or on an area of 100 ha or more (or 5,000 cubic metres or on an area of 50 ha or more in a protected landscapes).

Uncultivated land projects cover semi-natural areas, which include:

  • Priority habitats such as species-rich grassland, fen, scrub, or bracken beds (for full list see JNCC UK BAP habitat list online);
  • Historic environment features such as medieval earthworks or ridge and furrow;
  • Landscape features such as historic parks and gardens.

If there is semi-natural area within your project area (and this is over 2 ha), this falls within the Regulations, regardless of cultivation history.  Consultations with county archaeologists and local biological records centres will provide information on whether such features are present.

Where to find out more

Further information and EIA Screening Application forms can be found online: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eia-agriculture-Regulations-apply-to-make-changes-to-rural-land

If you require further advice please contact the Natural England EIA helpline (free phone) on 0800 028 2140 or email EIA.england@naturalengland.org.uk