Avian influenza (bird flu) and Newcastle disease prevention: join the compartmentalisation scheme

How to be approved as a compartment that meets EU or GB enhanced standards by protecting your poultry farm or hatchery against disease.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

You can help protect your farm or hatchery against avian influenza (bird flu) and Newcastle disease (fowl pest) by applying certain disease prevention standards.

Applying the standards of the compartmentalisation scheme and passing the inspections means that your holding will be classed as a compartment. Your holding will be treated as separate from its surrounding area as you’ll have a high level of biosecurity (eg physical barriers and management policies) that will protect it against infection.

The scheme is voluntary and has high hygiene requirements. If you meet the GB enhanced standard and avian influenza or Newcastle disease breaks out in the UK:

  • your compartment has a much lower chance of being infected
  • you’re more likely to be able to continue to export (although other countries must still approve imports)

Farmers in another country can benefit by importing from a British farm in the compartment scheme.

Usually if there’s a UK outbreak of disease then exports to some countries will be suspended, as decided by authorities in importing countries. However, importing countries may allow exports from farms in the compartment scheme.

Who can apply

You can apply if you’re a poultry breeding company producing high-value breeding stock of the main commercial poultry species - chickens, turkeys and ducks. High-value breeding stock are birds selected for breeding rather than for the food chain.

You must already permanently house your birds in buildings where you prevent wild birds, or other possible disease carriers, from entering.

You can’t apply if your birds have access to any free range conditions as they’re at risk of picking up infection from wild birds.

Where you must be located

Your administrative headquarters must be in England, Scotland or Wales.

If you have geographically separate holdings in England, Scotland or Wales you can have them approved as either:

  • separate compartments
  • a single compartment, if they’re functionally linked (ie they’re managed as one unit)

Every holding in the compartment must be in England, Scotland or Wales and under your full control, meaning that you have the right to:

  • carry out all the staff and visitor requirements of the scheme - eg ban entry to unauthorised people
  • erect buildings, fencing and other works (eg cut back trees) needed for the scheme

If you lease your holding you must have these rights stated in your contract with your landlord.

Choose standards

There are 2 standards you can apply and they have different levels of guidance. You can apply the:

  • EU standard - this is for protecting against avian influenza and follows EU Regulation 616/2009
  • GB enhanced standard - this includes the EU standard but has more detail and guidance and is for protecting against both avian influenza and Newcastle disease

Defra has created detailed guidance on the scheme rules (the schedules) and how you should apply the standard in your premises. You can find an overview of the compartmentalisation scheme on The British Poultry Council’s website and:

Along with the compartment scheme rules you must still follow import and export requirements and other statutory requirements. For example, joining the Poultry Health Scheme and following the national control programme for Salmonellas in breeding flocks.

When you can apply

You can only get initial approval when there are no official restrictions in your region for avian influenza or Newcastle disease.

Write a management plan

You must have a written management plan (also known as a set of protocols) to make sure that you meet all of the standard’s requirements.

The guidance on the British Poultry Council website details what you need to state, but things you’ll need to put in the plan include:

  • how staff, visitors and vehicles enter your biosecure zone and how you’ll disinfect them
  • how staff and visitors will limit their contact with other birds
  • how you’ll keep the compartment clean
  • how you plan for emergencies
  • the records you’ll keep
  • an assessment of the risks, including the infection risks

How to apply

You’ll must complete form PC01, stating which standard you’re applying for. You must also pay the relevant inspection fees.

You’ll need to send an organisation chart (‘organogram’) of the compartment with your application. You’ll need to show:

  • how staff and products will move between farms and hatcheries within the compartment
  • what you plan to bring into and send out of the compartment (eg feed and eggs)

You’ll also need to send your biosecurity plan, showing how you’ll keep the compartment free of disease (also known as a common biosecurity management system).

For each premises within the compartment you’ll need to send:

  • address and contact details
  • site plans showing how products and staff will move between buildings
  • your hazard analysis and critical control point analysis on how you’ll make sure that you’ll protect against avian influenza and Newcastle disease
  • your avian influenza testing results for the previous 6 months

You must send the form and supporting documents to the APHA Centre for International Trade (CIT) Carlisle.

Get inspected

Once the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) receives your application an agent will phone you to arrange inspections, first at your company headquarters and then at every premises in your proposed compartment. You must pay the relevant inspection fees for each inspection day.

After the inspection at each site the inspector will discuss their findings with you. Later you’ll receive a written report giving details of any necessary corrective action for any problems.

You may be able to fix minor problems (ones you can fix within 30 days) without a new inspection if you send suitable evidence to the inspector. For example, a photograph or copy of updated documents showing you’ve made the changes.

If there is a major problem (one that would take more than 30 days to fix) then you’ll need to host a new inspection and pay the fee again.

After you’ve hosted all the inspections the inspectors will write to you to tell you if you passed or failed. If you fail you’ll be told what to do to meet the approval requirements - Defra makes the final decision and you can’t appeal against it.

Once you’ve been approved

Once approved you’ll get a certificate confirming your status as a compartment - the certificate will include the date of approval.

Your certificate will have details of your approved compartment details (company name, premises approval number and county location).

Host re-inspections

You must host a new inspection every 12 months from the date of your original approval. Half of your farms will be inspected one year and the other half the next year (a 2-year cycle). Defra can review and alter this if needed (for example, following a disease outbreak).

You must contact the APHA in CIT Carlisle shortly before your approval’s anniversary and complete form PC01 each year to arrange an inspection.

When you contact the APHA in CIT Carlisle for a re-inspection you must state which farms or hatcheries you want inspected - it must normally be in the order they were originally approved.

You must have all your compartment farms and hatcheries inspected in 2-year cycles. Defra will suspend your approval if you don’t - you only get it back once you host a new inspection.

Adding new premises

You can ask to have extra premises approved at any time, either as individual compartments or to add them to an existing one.

You may need to host extra APHA inspections if you make any changes in any approved premises (including structural or in the management or biosecurity protocols) that could raise the risk of introducing disease.

You must contact the APHA in CIT Carlisle and discuss your plans before you make any changes. It may ask you to produce a risk assessment showing any potential risks of disease introduction and how you’ll mitigate them. You’ll need to satisfy the APHA that the relevant premises continue to meet the standards for approval - it will let you know if they do or do not.

Adding new farms won’t change your inspection cycle. After the initial inspection and approval, the new premises will be included with the existing ones in the 2-year re-inspection cycle.

Hosting inspections for countries you export to

Countries you want to export to can contact Defra and the APHA and ask them to carry out extra inspections. You would have to pay the normal inspection fees.

You may also have to host a visit by officials from the country you want to export to.

Pay inspection fees

The APHA will invoice you once the inspections are complete and you must pay the full fee even if you’re not approved. If you need a further inspection you’ll have to pay for it.

The fees are the same for EU standard and for the GB enhanced standard.

Type of visit Cost
Headquarters visit - first day £1,400 plus VAT
Headquarters visit - extra day (if needed) £1,000 plus VAT
Farm visit per day (2 sites may be visited in one day if your company rules allow) £1,000 plus VAT

Your responsibilities

Approval doesn’t have a time limit and you’ll keep it as long as you follow all the scheme rules, and host and pass re-inspections.

You or your compartment manager are responsible for making sure that your compartment continues to keep to the standard. You must:

If you have a flock farm you must also:

  • carry out testing for avian influenza (at least once every 6 months for the EU standard, and at least once every month for the GB enhanced standard)
  • set up extra disease controls as needed (eg if there’s a avian influenza outbreak in your area)

You must contact the APHA in Carlisle immediately if you no longer meet any of the conditions.

Report diseases

You must report suspected cases of avian influenza and Newcastle disease in your compartment to the APHA as they’re notifiable diseases.

You won’t be allowed to import or export birds if they’re infected or thought to be infected.

Approval: losing, suspending or withdrawing

If Defra gets information (eg from a re-inspection) that you’ve made changes to your structure or procedures at any approved premises that don’t follow approved status, it can:

  • suspend your approved status if you don’t fix the problem within 30 days
  • suspend your compartments approved status immediately, and not restore it until the problem has been fixed
  • withdraw your compartment’s approved status immediately (this can also happen if you don’t make changes following a suspension)

If suspended, you’ll only get your approval back once inspectors have your confirmation that you’ve fixed the problem.

You’ll lose your compartment’s approval if:

  • any site fails a Poultry Health Scheme inspection
  • you have an outbreak of avian influenza or Newcastle disease in your compartment
  • you fail to pay the relevant inspection fees

If you lose your approval

The list of approved premises will be updated as soon a compartment loses its approval.

If you lose your approved status you’ll have to start a new application with new inspections and you’ll have to pay the relevant fees.

Making changes

Your approval will be suspended, or you could lose it completely, if you make changes to your holding that don’t follow the compartment scheme standards.

For example, you don’t protect all ventilation openings to stop wild birds getting into the buildings in your biosecure zone.

Failure in a few sites

In some cases your compartment may lose its approval or have it suspended because of failures in a few sites.

If you can prove that there is strong disease and biological separation (‘epidemiological separation’) between the failed sites and the rest of the compartment you can contact Defra.

Defra may let you remove the failed sites from the compartment and you can continue as a compartment. Defra may ask you to host new inspections before making its decision.

Withdrawing approval

You can ask in writing to have your approval withdrawn at any time by contacting the APHA in Carlisle.

You can withdraw individual farms or hatcheries from the compartment whenever you wish as long as there aren’t any health or contamination issues that would affect the rest of your compartment.

If you remove individual premises then APHA inspectors will check that there won’t be any biosecurity or disease risks to the remaining compartment premises.

You won’t get a refund on any fees if you lose or ask to withdraw the status of any site.

Exporting during an outbreak

UK and EU disease regulations take priority over any compartment rules during any outbreak of avian influenza or Newcastle disease.

If there’s an avian influenza or Newcastle disease outbreak in the UK you may still be able to export to other countries if:

  • they’ve accepted the UK compartment scheme and imports from holdings in the scheme - it’s down to the other country to accept imports
  • there aren’t any restrictions on exports

You’ll need to send a certificate with any exports confirming the compartment status of the premises of origin.

Contact the APHA in Carlisle for advice on the latest situation at the time of an outbreak.

Published 19 February 2016