Environmental management – guidance

EIA (Agriculture) regulations: apply to make changes to rural land

How to request an Environmental Impact Assessment screening decision and if necessary, apply for consent to cultivate previously uncultivated land or semi-natural areas, or restructure land features.

Overview

The Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) (No.2) Regulations 2006 protect uncultivated land and semi-natural areas from being damaged by certain types of agricultural work, and prevent the restructuring of rural land holdings from having a significant environmental impact.

If you are considering a project to increase the agricultural productivity of uncultivated or semi-natural land, or to restructure a rural land holding, you’ll need to submit a screening application before beginning work.

If Natural England decides that your project is likely to have a significant impact on the environment, you’ll need to apply for consent to undertake this work.

If you fail to adhere to the regulations, you risk prosecution, a fine of up to £5,000 and you might be required to restore land to its previous condition. Your Basic Payment Scheme or Environmental Stewardship payments may also be affected.

Projects to increase agricultural production of uncultivated land or semi-natural areas by physical or chemical means

Examples of this work include:

  • increased use of fertiliser or soil improvers
  • sowing seed
  • ploughing, some forms of tine harrowing and rotovating the land
  • draining land
  • clearing existing vegetation, either physically or using herbicides

Restructuring features on the land

Examples of this work include:

  • adding or removing field boundaries
  • adding, removing or redistributing earth or other material

Apply for a screening decision

You must apply to Natural England for a screening decision if you want to make changes to uncultivated land or semi-natural areas, or restructure features on the land. You need to do this before you commence work.

Natural England has 35 days to consider whether your proposal can proceed, or if it requires consent. Consent is only necessary where the project is likely to have a significant effect on the environment.

You can contact Natural England for informal advice, before you submit a screening application.

How to apply

Complete the relevant form depending on the type of work you are proposing to carry out:

See the EIA (Agriculture) regulations guidance for more information about the application process.

You will need to decide whether to apply for consent if Natural England decides that your project is likely to have a significant effect on the environment from your screening application. You will need to prepare an environmental statement to apply for consent.

You should discuss this with Natural England before submitting your application. On request Natural England can provide you with a scoping opinion, which provides advice on what the environmental statement should contain. Once requested, this will be supplied to you within 5 weeks.

For more information about the consent application process and the environmental statement requirements, see the full guidance on the EIA (Agriculture) regulations.

Natural England must publish the outcome of all applications received for a screening decision or to gain consent:

Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2006: public register (PDF, 1.82MB, 176 pages)

The EIA (Agriculture) regulations guidance explains how to appeal against Natural England’s decision. Your appeal must be received by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs within 28 days of the decision being issued by Natural England.

Contact

For advice about the EIA regulations, contact the EIA unit:

Telephone: 0800 028 2140

Email: eia.england@naturalengland.org.uk

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Unit
Natural England
First Floor, Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol
BS1 6EB