New rules to counter diffuse water pollution

The new Farming Rules for Water came into force on 2 April. Designed to prevent diffuse water pollution under the Water Framework Directive, there are eight rules governing the management of manure, soil and fertiliser in order to prevent pollution of watercourses. Defra seems to have heeded some of the advice it received during the consultation period: although the rules sit within a regulatory framework and will be enforced by the Environment Agency (EA), an advice-led approach will be taken in the event of a breach rather than an instant penalty. However, the NFU warns that this more holistic approach may not apply if any of the rules already covered by cross-compliance, or NVZ requirements, are breached. These rules are due to be reviewed in 2021.

Do you have an abstraction licence?

The NFU wants to encourage those who have flow conditions on their abstraction licences to respond to an Environment Agency online survey. The EA wants feedback from abstractors about the notification process governing the activation of flow control restrictions on their licences. It is probably reasonable to assume that abstraction will become an increasingly fraught issue, despite this year's wet spring, so the more views from licensees to feed into the decision-making process, the better.

New permitted development rights for farms

On 5 March, Dominic Raab, the Housing Minister, announced changes to permitted development rights which will allow up to five new homes to be built from an existing agricultural building, which represents a change from the current limit of three. It is hoped that these changes will boost the number of new homes created through the conversion of agricultural buildings and help meet local housing needs. The final part of the announcement was the increase in the size of new agricultural buildings on larger farms from 465 square metres to 1,000 square metres.

Grant available for restoring historic farm buildings

A pilot project to fund the restoration of historic farm buildings in five national parks has just been launched by Defra, Natural England, and Historic England. Eligible owners have until the end of January 2019 to apply for funding; the application process itself is fully funded so that applicants can develop an implementation plan with conservation and architectural experts to help secure the funding itself, worth up to 80% of the restoration cost.

DIY livery owner retains right to BPR

Many farms run DIY livery businesses alongside the main farming operation so it will come as a relief to hear that, in a recent case, HMRC's decision to refuse Business Property Relief (BPR) to a DIY livery business was overturned in court because the owner could prove that she provided a number of services to the horse owners, over and above the letting of stables and grazing land. You cannot claim BPR on investments, and letting grazing land has traditionally been seen as such. By providing additional services such as regular worming, the livery owner was able to demonstrate that she ran a trading business on which BPR can be claimed. However, HMRC has appealed the decision as the outcome of this case has implications for furnished holiday lets.

Employment update: wage rates rise

The National Minimum Wage increased from 1 April 2018. The rates are now:

£7.83 per hour (from £7.50) aged 25 and over

£7.38 per hour (from £7.05) aged 21 – 24

£5.90 per hour (from £5.60) aged 18 – 20

£4.20 per hour (from £4.05) aged 16 -17

The apprentice rate increases from £3.50 to £3.70 per hour.

From 2 April 2018, the rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, and shared parental pay increased from £140.98 per week to £145.18 or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.