Conference given abstraction reform update

The NFU is continuing to press farmers' and growers' interests as reform of the water abstraction licensing system draws near, according to its water resources specialist Paul Hammett.

He told the British Herb Trades Association conference: "Defra will announce its policy direction any time now - it has cross-party support - leading to a water bill in the next year or two, but implementation is a good 10 years away.

"There are many over-licensed, over-abstracted areas. More and more storage in your sector and publicity will be needed. We either need a better grant system or more attractive capital allowances, as well as less onerous planning requirements."

Of the 21,000 abstraction licences nationally, two-thirds are held by farmers, yet farming takes just one per cent of abstracted water.

"We only use half the water we are licensed for. The Government foresees removing unused volume, but for us that headroom is really important. We are working under the shadow of section 57 (of the Water Resources Act), which prevents water use in times of shortage."

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