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“Government must step back on NVZs in light of possible legal challenge” – says Llŷr Gruffydd MS

PLAID Cymru’s Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs has urged the Welsh Government to pause the introduction of their proposed Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) regulation in light of an indication that NFU Cymru are considering a legal challenge.

Llyr Gruffydd MS has proposed a motion to annul the regulations to be debated tomorrow (Wednesday, 3rd March) and he has urged the Government to introduce more sophisticated and targeted regulations on water quality, rather than pursuing an outdated approach, which he says are “disproportionate, will have unintended consequences for the environment, and will undermine the viability of many Welsh farms.”

NFU Cymru has today (Tuesday 2 March) written to the Welsh Government questioning the lawfulness of introduction of these regulations. In addition to the legal concerns, their president has called the regulations “indiscriminate” and noting the “exorbitant costs” – similar concerns to those raised by Mr Gruffydd in an open letter to fellow Members of the Senedd.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Llŷr Gruffydd MS said:

“This potential legal challenge is another reason for the Welsh Government to take a step back and revisit its proposals. In the interest of achieving greater consensus and more effective legislation on this important matter I believe these regulations should be withdrawn. If this happens then I pledge the time and commitment of my party to work with the Government on introducing a more sophisticated and targeted set of regulations by the end of this year.”

The matter of annulling the new regulations will be debated in the Senedd tomorrow (Wednesday 3 March) following a motion tabled by Mr Gruffydd on the following grounds:

· Disproportionate: Natural Resources Wales (NRW) recommend that 8% of Wales should be placed within Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ), up from 2.3%. Instead the Welsh Government will impose 100% blanket coverage.

· Environmental impact: The farming-by-calendar approach proposed by Welsh Government will force farmers to spread slurry based on dates rather than weather. The proposals will cause intensive spreading immediately before and after new closed periods, causing huge spikes in nitrate levels and potential new pollution. Loss of controlled cattle grazing in the Welsh uplands will undermine habitat and biodiversity restoration work.

· Expensive: According to the Government’s own estimates, the upfront capital cost to farmers to comply with these regulations will be between £109 million – £360 million. The Government has allocated £11.5 million to help with these costs. Many farmers in Wales do not have the money nor the borrowing capacity to meet these costs, and will end up going out of business.

· Untimely: The Environment Minister promised 12 times in the last 12 months to not bring in regulations during the pandemic – a promise that has been broken.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Llŷr Gruffydd MS said,

“Regulations proposed by the Welsh Government are disproportionate, will have unintended consequences for the environment, and will undermine the viability of many Welsh farms.

“It is right that we move to protect our water resources, but under no circumstances should regulations be brought in that increase the risk of harm to our beautiful countryside, and damage an entire sector.

“As I have said before – this is the wrong answer to the right question.”

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