Guidance

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 started 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.

If you can’t print a map from What’s in your backyard or have difficulty checking online then contact the Environment Agency.

Telephone: 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

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Designation notices

Defra sent written designation notices, in early 2017, to anyone with land in an NVZ, telling them about their need to comply with NVZ rules. Appeals had to be submitted within 28 days of receiving the designation 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:

Transitional arrangements

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)

Grassland derogations

If your land is in an NVZ, you can use up to 170kg per hectare of nitrogen in livestock manure in each calendar year. This includes manure deposited directly by grazing livestock and what you spread.

This limit is the loading limit and applies as an average across your holding.

You can apply for a grassland derogation to increase this amount to 250kg per hectare if the nitrogen comes from grazing livestock manure. If you have a current derogation, it will finish at the end of December 2018. You must reapply for a 2019 derogation.

The application period for 2019 grassland derogations will open in autumn 2018. Read grassland derogations for livestock manure in nitrate vulnerable zones to find out more.

Cross-compliance requirements

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.

Contact us

Contact the Environment Agency if you have any questions about your designation notice:

Telephone: 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

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) advice@farmingadviceservice.org.uk

Published 10 August 2015
Last updated 26 September 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated to show application dates for 2018 grassland derogation.
  2. Removed out of date information about designation notices.
  3. Northumbria and Humber designation notices sent on 21 February 2017, not 20 February.
  4. Added NVZ letter contact information.
  5. Changed Farming Advice Service's phone number.
  6. Added section 'When to expect a designation notice' and information on transitional arrangements.
  7. Removed section about 'Land first included in an NVZ in 2013'. Added information about NVZs for 2017 and grassland derogations.
  8. First published.