ANGUS South MSP Graeme Dey has welcomed confirmation that following consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is introducing changes to its consenting regime for land drainage and watercourse management and actively engaging with the farming community to both highlight best practice and clarify the legislative do’s and dont’s.
Mr Dey, who is depute convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs Climate Change and Environment Committee, commented: “Dredging burns and watercourses in the wrong way and in the wrong location can not only cause environmental damage in the immediate area but potentially have damaging consequences downstream.
“However, all around Angus we have seen the challenges that farmers faced following the heavy rainfall of a few months ago and we have to ensure that drainage systems work effectively.”
He went on: “That is why I am pleased to see the commonsense approach being adopted by SEPA in regard to the introduction of changes to the licensing regime for cleaning out straightened watercourses of less than five metres along with their going out and speaking to those in the agricultural sector who are having to contend with flooding.
“Previously dredging watercourses which have historically been maintained required the purchase of an expensive licence. The new set up, which albeit rightly will carry associated good practice requirements, will be cheaper and more efficient.”
SEPA is in the midst of holding a series of meetings, in conjunction with the National Farmers Union Scotland, around the country to clarify existing legislative arrangements, explain the planned changes and listen to the industry’s concerns.
Mr Dey concluded: “I think this engagement is really important because we have to strike an effective and appropriate balance between dealing with the impact of severe rainfall on farmed land, and the knock on effects for others, whilst protecting the environment and in particular biodiversity.
“And I am pleased to note that moves are being made by SEPA to encourage farmers and landowners to come together to find catchment scale solutions for sediment management in more natural rivers.
“That approach is not only the right one from an environmental perspective but also offers the prospect of sharing the associated costs.”