Update meeting on dredging rules

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NEW rules on dredging to prevent flooding will be explained to farmers at a meeting near Lauder later this month.

Borders farmers with choked ditches and waterways will welcome the easing of the rules last week by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

The farmers’ union, NFU Scotland and SEPA staff are holding meetings across Scotland to explain what producers can and cannot do in relation to the changes which allow farmers to more easily dredge previously straightened watercourses up to five metres in width.

NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie said: “Applications to dredge will not be guaranteed clearance automatically, but farmers who are toiling with clogged-up ditches are highly recommended to apply to SEPA to dredge them.

“Costs have been cut to £77 for an on-line application, and authorisations can be granted after 30 days, as opposed to four months, which was previously the 
case.”

He cautioned: “Farmers should be aware that this new relaxation relates specifically to previously straightened watercourses.

“Farmers whose ditches, burns and rivers have not been straightened and who are facing flooding and drainage problems should still contact SEPA to see what options are open to them.”

Flooding problems have escalated in recent years because of “unusually high” rainfall said Mr Bowie.

“The effects of flooding on farmland can be devastating, severely affecting returns and degrading precious soils,” he said, adding that farmers had been fearful of clearing out watercourses in case they breached cross-compliance rules and were fined.

He went on: “As a result, a great deal of ditch-clearing and general maintenance has not taken place in recent years, compounding the effects of prolonged wet weather.

“The NFUS is fully accepting of SEPA and SNH’s important role in protecting water quality and biodiversity.

“However, the rules and permisions associated with dredging have previously been too restrictive and costly.”

The explanatory meeting will be at The Lodge, Carfraemill on Tuesday March 19, starting at 7.30pm.