High Court dismisses NFU Cymru challenge to controversial water regulations
The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge against the water quality regulations introduced by the Welsh Government last year.
NFU Cymru challenged the rules, which effectively make the whole of Wales a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) and introduced closed periods for slurry spreading, describing them as “unworkable” and said they pose a significant threat to the economic viability of Welsh farming.
Judge, Sir Wynn Williams said the Welsh Government had not acted unlawfully in making the water quality regulation.
NFU Cymru vowed to keep fighting despite losing the judicial review and are continuing to call for increased financial support to be given to farmers to help them comply with the new regulations.
Speaking after the High Court ruling, NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “This case was not about seeking to ignore agricultural pollution incidents or trying to reduce environmental protection; it was about ensuring when the Government makes decisions which impact the Welsh farming industry, it does so based on a proper assessment and understanding of those impacts.
“Unfortunately, we are already aware of farming families leaving the industry as a direct consequence of the regulations.
A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “What matters now is we all work together to tackle the continuing pollution in our waters and support our farming industry. Today’s judgment allows us to continue with this important work.”
Responding to the ruling Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds said: “This is no doubt a disappointing result for Welsh farmers up and down the country. Every single one of us wants to see water quality improve, but collective punishment is never an acceptable answer.
“Most farmers are obeying the rules and working with the Government and our environmental agencies to help improve water quality, punishing them instead of solely those breaking the rules is counterproductive.
Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have also both voiced opposition to the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones or NVZ Regulations.
Over 10,000 farmers also sent emails to Senedd members highlighting the financial impact of implementing the new regulations, which include the upgrading of slurry storage facilities to enable farms to have at least five months’ worth of slurry storage.
NFU Cymru estimates the regulations, which also impose three-month ban on slurry spreading every autumn to curb run-off from fields during wet months, created up-front costs of around £360m and ongoing yearly costs of £14m.
The Welsh government says the new rules are necessary to tackle river pollution and improve water quality in rivers and lakes.
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