If you plan to make any changes to your land it is worth considering whether the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations apply. The EIA regulations protect rural land in England that’s uncultivated or semi-natural from changes in agricultural activities that might cause damage. The regulations apply to uncultivated land that has not been cultivated in the last 15 years by:

  • physical means, such as ploughing or an activity that breaks the soil surface or disrupts the subsoil
  • chemical means, such as adding fertiliser or soil improvers

Semi-natural land includes priority habitats, heritage or archaeological features, or protected landscapes. It’s usually land that has not been intensively farmed, such as unimproved grassland or lowland heath.

The regulations apply to changes to land including:

  • Increasing productivity of land for agriculture
  • Restoring semi-natural grassland or semi-natural heathland
  • Altering field boundaries (add or remove boundaries, including new fences on commons, over 4km long, 2km in protected landscapes)
  • Moving or redistributing earth (involving over 10,000m3  or more or over 100 ha)

Thresholds apply to each of the changes above and vary depending on whether you are within a protected landscape such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Scheduled Monuments. The guidance on the regulations provides more information on definitions and thresholds for each. EIA (Agriculture) regulations: apply to make changes to rural land - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Land under 2ha

There is a threshold for land under 2 hectares. You cannot work on separate projects under the 2ha threshold which are on the same landholding if they exceed 2ha overall.

Natural England also needs to consider proposals to change land under the 2ha threshold that’s of regional significance if it:

  • is semi-natural
  • has heritage features, such as above or below-ground archaeological sites
  • has special landscape features, such as historic parkland

Full guidance on the regulations and what to do if you fall within the requirements are set out here: EIA (Agriculture) regulations: apply to make changes to rural land - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)