UK faces EC challengeover nitrate controls

Regulations establishing an action programme to curb nitrate leaching from farms were laid before Parliament in May. They should enable the UK to escape legal action by the European Commission for non-compliance with the 1991 Directive on nitrate from agriculture - but the Government is facing the trickier challenge of persuading the Commission that it should not be taken to the European Court of Justice for introducing controls in only some catchments with high nitrate levels.

The Directive obliged Member States to designate as nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) catchments within which surface waters and groundwaters are affected by nitrate "pollution". This was to be done by the end of 1993. By the end of 1995, initial four-year action programmes to reduce nitrate leaching from farms within NVZs should have followed.

Last year, a Commission report concluded that general progress in implementing the Directive was

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