Countryside Stewardship: Water Quality

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of increasing the number of areas that benefit from the countryside stewardship water quality priority areas scheme.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Countryside stewardship is designed to maximise environmental improvements and value for money for the taxpayers. Water quality actions are focused on areas posing the highest risk of water pollution from agriculture, for example, in catchments draining into specifically protected sites of biodiversity. We will look to review these focus areas in the transition period and, importantly, how we reward farmers for delivering public goods, such as water quality, through our new environmental land management scheme.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham

As we move from the single farm payment to support for farmers to protect the environment, these water quality protection areas are one of the schemes that my local farmers in the Wear valley are particularly interested in looking at. May I therefore urge the Minister to include us in any review that is taking place?

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I know that this is an area he is particularly interested in, as he has spoken to me about it before. Management practices that farmers introduce on their land can bring multiple benefits to the environment, including to water quality. I will pass on the invite to the Secretary of State, whom I believe he has asked to visit. He may have to make do with me or indeed with the farming Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis. We both have children at Durham University, so perhaps we could come together.