Straw and stubble burning consigned to history

The large scale burning of straw and stubble, a major environmental nuisance of the 1980s, has finally been prohibited. New regulations banning the practice, albeit with some exemptions, came into force on 29 June.1

A ban on straw and stubble burning was promised by the Government shortly before the Environmental Protection Act 1990 began its passage through Parliament, and the new regulations have been made under section 152 of the Act. They apply only in England and Wales.

The regulations prohibit the burning of cereal straw and stubble and of residues of oil-seed rape and peas and field beans harvested dry "remaining on the land after harvesting of the crop grown thereon." Burning of straw used for animal bedding or crop protection therefore appears to be permitted.

Burning of these residues will also be permitted for the purposes of "education or research" and of disease control where a Plant Health Order has been issued. Burning of straw stack remains or broken bales will be allowed. Linseed growers have also won an exemption from the ban, although the Government has promised to review this after the 1995 harvest.

The regulations also impose controls on burning which will apply where any of the exemptions specified above are invoked, and to linseed residues. These are largely a continuation of rules introduced in 1991. They lay down limits on the area and time within which burning may be carried out, fire-break requirements, minimum separation distances from trees, hedgerows, buildings, roads and other features, safety requirements, and provisions on the incorporation of ash from cereal residues into the soil. Farmers will also have to give advance notice of burning operations to environmental health departments but not, as before, to fire authorities.

The penalty for breaches of the regulations will be a fine of up to £5,000.

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