Clarification of the rules on river management in Scotland

Posted: Friday 4th April 2014

Constructive talks were held when NFUS President, Nigel Miller, met with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) Chairman, David Sigsworth, and representatives of the Scottish Government on a recent visit to Dumfries and Galloway.

There was open discussion around the problems encountered by some farmers after recent storm events, and useful clarification of the actions which can be taken by farmers in relation to watercourse management on their farms.

SEPA Chairman, David Sigsworth, said:

"SEPA is aware of, and sympathetic to, the challenges facing farmers, particularly after extreme rainfall events. It was helpful to hear first-hand about the difficulties, and to be able to discuss what SEPA can do to help. At a local level, SEPA officers are always happy to discuss drainage and river work issues, and land managers are advised to contact their local SEPA office if they have any queries."

There are a number of activities land managers can carry out in respect of routine drainage and clearance measures without contacting SEPA for permission. More significant works do require further controls, and SEPA staff are always available to discuss options for watercourse management with farmers.

Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

"These are obviously issues which are of great concern to all farmers, and in particular those who have been badly affected. A strong working partnership between NFU Scotland, SEPA and Scottish Government is key to supporting these farmers, and will also play an important role in relaying key messages to the sector on the actions they can take, in consultation with SEPA, regarding sustainable watercourse management. The kinds of impacts we are seeing on individual farms, arising from severe weather, serve as a warning as to the possible impacts on farmers of climate change and thereby reinforce the need for an increased focus on investment in areas such as Natural Flood Management."

Activities which do not require land managers to contact SEPA prior to carrying them out include: field drain maintenance, removal of vegetation and trees, clearing small ditches of less than one metre wide, and dredging close to culverts.

There is also an inexpensive and simple registration process for authorisation of works near bridges, removal of gravel bars and dredging in larger straightened rivers (up to five metres wide).

Only more significant works require authorisation through the issue of a licence. If land managers are in any doubt, local SEPA staff are always available to provide advice on all levels of authorisation.

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