Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum by R & JM Place Ltd (DWB 16(a))

  I have plucked up courage to write to you again, subsequent to your hearing on 6 February especially as we have become concerned over the views expressed by the Environment Agency Dr George Mance and his colleagues that they were not in favour of an amnesty for exempt trickle irrigators. We believe that the Environment Agency gave the impression in their replies (QQ 249-251) that many exempt trickle irrigators derogated existing sources or caused environmental damage—he gave an example of a river being sucked dry.

  We do not believe that this is the case where exempt abstraction has taken place from boreholes.

  I omitted to tell the Committee that, in our case, I specifically asked Mr Hockaday, the Licensing Officer of Environment Agency, at a meeting at Newmarket on 9 September 1997, if our exempt trickle borehole irrigation was causing problems and he said "No" and again he said that he expected existing exempt abstractors to be granted grandfather rights, as happened under the previous 1963 and 1991 Water Resource Acts, if exempt trickle irrigation was ever brought by Parliament under licensing control.

  Mr Hockaday mentioned that he knew only of one problem with exempt trickle abstraction, which was in Essex.

  We believe that where exempt abstractors have sent details of their abstractions to the Environment Agency and where the Agency have known about these abstractions, then the Agency had the opportunity and, we believe, a duty to inform the exempt trickle abstractor of any derogation of existing sources or any environmental damage being caused. If they did not do this, then surely they should have done so.

  We believe that the way forward would be for you to suggest that a licence should be given in the case of borehole abstractions.

  1.   Where the abstractor was an established exempt trickle abstractor, prior to April 1999, the date of the publication of Taking Water Responsibly by DETR.

  2.   Where the abstractor had sent details of annual usage to the Agency each year and

  3.   Where there had been no formal notification to the abstractor by the Agency (or written claim by another licensed abstractor) before April 1999 (the date of the Publication of Taking Water Responsibly) that the abstractor was harming existing licensed abstraction sources or causing damage to the environment.

  Subject to this, we suggest that the legislation should include a paragraph that existing users of trickle irrigation should be treated as if they already had a licence and it should be up to the Environment Agency to show in the 2004 Review if any environmental damage was being caused.

  We hope that you will be able to consider this suggestion. We very much appreciated being called on 6 February to give evidence to you.

John Place

February 2001

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