New Rules Could Help Farmers’ Flooded Fields

NFUS has warmly welcomed new dredging arrangements, announced by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), which will allow farmers to help prevent valuable fields from being flooded.

Details of the new arrangements will be explained by NFUS and SEPA staff at a series of joint meetings to be held across Scotland throughout March.

NFU Scotland has been pressing SEPA for two years to revise the rules on dredging, which has resulted in the announcement of a new 'registration' activity for dredging previously straightened watercourses up to five metres in width.

Applications to dredge will not be guaranteed 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.

NFUS vice-president, Allan Bowie, said:

“Farmers the length and breadth of the country will be very relieved at SEPA’s new approach to dredging, which is a significant achievement for NFUS lobbying. At a stroke, SEPA have made a sensible decision which could make a real difference to the thousands of Scottish farmers whose fields have lain miserably under water for months and, in many cases, years. The effects of flooding on farmland can be devastating, severely affecting returns and degrading precious soils.

“Farmers have struggled acutely in recent years as rainfall has been unusually high; additionally, they have often been fearful of carrying out what would, in fact, be legitimate works to clear out watercourses in case they breach cross-compliance rules, thereby incurring heavy fines. 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.

“NFUS is fully accepting of SEPA and SNH's important role in protecting water quality and biodiversity, however, the rules and permitting associated with dredging have previously been too restrictive and costly. Following several seasons of relentless wet weather, flooding and waterlogging of farmland has become a serious issue across much of Scotland as regulation and fear of penalties have stifled essential maintenance.

“Farmers should be aware that this new relaxation relates specifically to previously straightened watercourses, however, farmers whose ditches, burns and rivers have not been straightened and are facing flooding and drainage problems should still contact SEPA to see what options are open to them.

“To help explain existing dredging rules, as well as the recent changes, NFUS is holding events across Scotland throughout March. If you have struggled to keep your land productive in the face of waterlogging and flooding, we would urge you to attend.”


NFUS and SEPA staff will host meetings to explain what farmers can and cannot do when carrying out works on watercourses:

  • Monday 4 March - Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness
  • Tuesday 5 March – Lochter Activity Centre, Oldmeldrum
  • Tuesday 12 March – Huntingtower Hotel, near Perth
  • Wednesday 13 March – Douglas Arms, Castle Douglas
  • Monday 18 March – Western House Hotel, Ayr
  • Tuesday 19 March – The Lodge, Carfraemill
  • Monday 25 March – Ardshiel Hotel, Campbeltown

All meetings start at 19h30, with tea and coffee beforehand.


Contact Sarah Anderson on 0131 472 4108

Date Published:

News Article No.: 27/13

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