Nutrient management: Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
Find out if your land is in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) and how use of nitrogen fertilisers and organic manures is restricted in NVZs.
Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. They include about 58% of land in England. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reviews NVZs every 4 years to account for changes in water pollution.
NVZs for 2017 to 2020 start on 1 January 2017. They include new areas of NVZs, and exclude areas that have been de-designated.
Find out if your land is in an NVZ
Use the What’s in your backyard tool to find out if your land is in an NVZ . You can print a map of your local area using this tool.
Your farm may be completely or partly in an NVZ. NVZ boundaries are drawn around whole fields, so there are no fields that are only partly in an NVZ. Restrictions apply to each field on your farm that’s in an NVZ.
The NVZs method statement shows how the NVZ designation was revised. The methodology used the National Environment and Agricultural Procedure - Nitrate (Neap-N) report to find estimates of the average nitrate leached from agricultural land.
If you can’t print a map from What’s in your backyard or have difficulty checking online then contact the Environment Agency.
Defra sends written notices in early 2017 to any person who owns or occupies land completely or partly within an NVZ. This notice tells the owner or occupier of the designation and their need to comply with NVZ rules.
When to expect a designation notice
You’ll get your NVZ notice depending on which river basin district your land is in. Notices are sent on the following dates:
- North West, Dee, Severn and Solway Tweed: 3 January 2017
- South West, Anglian, Thames and South East: 23 January 2017
- Northumbria and Humber: 21 February 2017
If you’re unsure which river basin district covers your land you can use the What’s in your backyard tool to check.
You can get help on notices from the Environment Agency’s helpline: 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).
Request a notice
If you haven’t received a designation notice but think you should have done, or if you need to discuss your notice, contact the Environment Agency.
Any missing notices will be dated with the date that the notice is despatched.
Appeal an NVZ notice
When you’ve got your notice in 2017 you can appeal against the designation of your land. You can only appeal an NVZ notice if you believe your land either:
- doesn’t drain into polluted water
- drains into water that shouldn’t be identified as polluted
These are the grounds set out in regulation 6 of the Nitrates Regulations 2015.
You must make sure the First-tier Tribunal receives your appeal within 28 days of the date of the notice.
Find out how to appeal an NVZ notice.
Using manufactured nitrogen fertilisers and organic manures in NVZs
If your land is in an NVZ you must follow the legal requirements which apply to NVZs:
- using nitrogen fertilisers in nitrate vulnerable zones
- storing organic manures in nitrate vulnerable zones
If your holding is in an NVZ for the first time in 2017, transitional arrangements will apply to give you time to adjust your farming practice.
These arrangements mean that you don’t have to comply with any of the legal requirements until 1 January 2018 and any of the following legal requirements until 31 July 2019:
- restrictions on spreading slurry (regulation 18)
- closed periods for organic manure (regulation 20)
- exemption for organic holdings (regulation 21)
- closed period for manufactured nitrogen fertilisers (regulation 22)
- separation of slurry (regulation 24)
- storage capacity (regulation 25)
You may be eligible for a grassland derogation if the livestock manure produced on your farm is likely to exceed the amount you’re allowed to spread on your land in an NVZ.
The NVZ rules are part of the requirements for cross compliance, known as Statutory Management Requirement 1. You must meet all NVZ cross-compliance requirements to qualify for full payment under the Basic Payment Scheme and other direct payments.
Inspections and enforcement
The Environment Agency enforces the NVZ rules. Its officers make risk-based assessments of which farms to inspect.
You’re breaking the law and could be fined if you breach an NVZ’s requirements.
The Rural Payments Agency inspects a proportion of farmers who claim Basic Payment under the cross-compliance rules.
NVZ letter contact
Contact the Environment Agency if you have any questions about your designation notice:
Farming Advice Service
Contact the Farming Advice Service for more information on using nitrogen fertilisers and manures in NVZs and other requirements of cross compliance. Don’t contact the Farming Advice Service about your designation notice.
Telephone:03000 200 301 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) email@example.com
Published: 10 August 2015
Updated: 21 February 2017
- Northumbria and Humber designation notices sent on 21 February 2017, not 20 February.
- Added NVZ letter contact information.
- Changed Farming Advice Service's phone number.
- Added section 'When to expect a designation notice' and information on transitional arrangements.
- Removed section about 'Land first included in an NVZ in 2013'. Added information about NVZs for 2017 and grassland derogations.
- First published.