Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by R & J M Place Ltd (DWB 16)

  Please find enclosed our memorandum for the Sub-committee and we would welcome the chance to give evidence before the Committee. We believe this could be useful to the Committee because one of the major aims of the draft Water Bill is to bring into licensing, abstractors like ourselves, who have been previously exempt from obtaining a licence for trickle irrigation.

  Our activities may mirror those of other trickle irrigators who are now exempt.

  We want to continue, in our rural area of Norfolk, supporting the environment whilst sharing out the water fairly between the needs of the environment and the needs of long established fruit growers and farmers.

  Water, which we use for trickle irrigation of our fruit crops, is vital to our business and until now trickle irrigation has been exempt from licensing. Under the draft Water Bill, we would be obliged to apply for a licence but the Environment Agency tell us that if we applied for a licence this would be refused because the catchment is said to be fully committed.

  We expected that the draft Water Bill would provide grandfather rights in the form of new licences for long established growers like ourselves, but all we can find is a provision under Clause 60 for two years transition, which would be no help to us.

  We cannot grow fruit without water, it is vital, as we could not produce the quality and quantity required by our buyers, so no new licence means we would be unable to continue in business. This would be a disaster for our business with our staff becoming redundant and a loss of £3 million to the rural economy.

  Our business has been profitable and we have recently invested £4 million. We put £3.25 million each year into our rural economy. We employ 70 regular workers and up to 850 casual workers in summer/autumn.

  We would like to answer questions from the Committee and hopefully the Government will reword the draft Bill, so that our Company which has been growing fruit since 1954 could continue in business.

  It would be a disaster to have to cease business, as we would just grow corn on the land, which crop is now overproduced and unprofitable—the total economy would lose £3 million per annum—we would all lose our jobs (70 regular workers plus all the casual workers).

  Please let us know what further information you require and we look forward to hearing from you.

January 2001

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