NPA criticises ‘unjustified’ new environmental permit charges

New environmental permit charges published by the Environment Agency will add unjustified costs to pig farming businesses, the NPA has warned.

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies described the overall outcome as ‘disappointing but as expected’, although the association did manage to secure some relief from the agency’s initial proposals.

The new charges, which will come into force on April 1, will see application fees increase from £3,750 to £8,020, as initially proposed

Variation fees will rise for all categories, including to a prohibitive £7,218 for changes deemed to be ‘substantial’. Fees will rise to £2,406 for a minor variations and to £4,010 for normal variations.

Better news is that, following lobbying from NPA, permit variations required as part of the BREF review process will only cost £380, much lower than originally proposed. This will be dependent on permit holders completing preparatory work to provide all the information required to enable a ‘streamlined assessment’. If this doesn’t happen the substantial variation charges, depending on complexity, will apply.

The annual subsistence fee has been reduced from £2,490 to £2,386 for non-accredited units and £1,580 to £1,444 for accredited units.

Dr Davies said: “We welcome the concessions that have been made on the back of our strong lobbying on this issue, particularly as the review has been triggered by the agency and all permits will need to be re-assessed.

“But, overall, the higher application and variation fees are unfair and unjustified – we still maintain that the Environment Agency needs to do a lot more to reduce its own costs if it is to pass them on to farming businesses. They have agreed to undertake a review of the pig and poultry permitting process to see where further efficiencies can be made. NPA will be taking part in this review.

“We also believe the charges will penalise efficient businesses that want to invest to expand and improve and will drive the industry towards larger units to justify the extra costs, which, in turn, is likely to result in more problems during the planning process.”

The NPA has arranged to discuss the full implications of the new charges early next week.

The new environmental permitting charging scheme can be viewed here and guidance on the charging scheme is available here

Covering costs

The EA said the new charges had been introduced so that businesses and organisations cover the full cost of the services they receive rather than the public. They reflect the amount of regulatory effort needed at a site and will allow the agency to invest further in its permitting service, it said.

“Businesses that are well managed and low hazard present a low environmental risk and will be charged less. Higher risk or poor performing businesses will be charged more,” it added.

Neil Davies, Environment Agency Director of Regulatory Charges, said: “This is more financially-sustainable, will lead to a better service to businesses and long-term improvements to the environment.”

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.