Scottish farming leaders yesterday claimed a breakthrough in achieving new dredging arrangements which will help thousands of farmers prevent their fields from being flooded.
The changes see a new registration scheme with fees cut to a maximum £77. Authorisation time by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) for any work has also been reduced to 30 days, as opposed to the current four months.
NFU Scotland stressed that applications to dredge would not be guaranteed automatically but farmers toiling with clogged up ditches were recommended to apply to Sepa if they wished to carry out dredging work.
After several fiery meetings in recent months with farmers up in arms about flooded water-courses, union vice-president Allan Bowie said he was sure everyone would now be very relieved at Sepa’s new approach.
Bowie called the changes “sensible” and advised farmers who want to know more to attend one of the meetings that will be held in various parts of the country in the coming weeks where Sepa officials and union officers will be on hand to discuss any problems.
Sepa’s water and land manager David Harley – conscious of the challenging conditions that farmers had faced during the recent unusually wet weather – said the meetings would help dispel what he described as the “fear factor” among farmers unsure as to what was permissible in drainage terms and what was not.
Any farmer whose ditches, burns and rivers had not been straightened and who were facing flooding and drainage problems should still contact Sepa to see what options were open to them.
“Field drainage is a complex issue and the condition of soils, sub-surface field drains and drainage ditches are all important and related factors,” he said.
“The dredging of burns and watercourses in the wrong place and in the wrong way can cause serious environmental harm.”