IPPC update: aggregating pig units

UK - The Environment Agency is setting up a special group to consider IPPC aggregation, case by case, reports the NPA's Digby Scott.
calendar icon 14 August 2006
clock icon 4 minute read

National Pig Association

NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers - fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

There are several issues producers should be are aware of if they have two units near each other and are keen not to have them aggregated into one IPPC-size unit. Producers who have two existing IPPC-size units and would like them aggregated to save costs, should also read on.

The main issues are covered in “IPPC and downsizing” in August Pig World (published next Wednesday), pages 42-46. But a development this week is that the Environment Agency is currently revising its ‘guidance on interpretation of an installation’. Producers should learn the outcome of its deliberations by the end of this month.

As many producers will know, the revision is necessary following a high court decision which ruled against the Agency’s attempt to aggregate installations as far as a mile apart. Pig-keepers are currently in an impossible situation. How close do two pig units have to be to be ‘directly associated activities’? Quarter of a mile? Half a mile?

The position will not necessarily be much clearer when the new guidelines are issued. They will still be only the Agency’s interpretation of ‘obscure’ law (the High Court description), and susceptible to challenge in the courts. As Nick Green says: what one person sees as a commonsense approach may be contrary to what someone else sees as a black-and-white closed issue.

Nick, who leads on environmental matters for NPA, suggests pig-keepers will have to go with what they believe is the best for their situation, subject to an honest and diligent interpretation of the Agency’s guidance notes (when they are available). You may also want to talk to BPEX’s environment specialist Nigel Penlington, who will be happy to advise individual producers, to the best of his ability.

If you decide you do not need to aggregate, you will have to decide whether to discuss the matter with the Environment Agency. There is an argument that if you are sure you are sub-IPPC there is no reason why you should seek contact with the Agency. But if you take this route you should be aware that you might, sooner or later, be challenged by the Agency.

In summary, carefully consider what the Environment Agency says, but be aware that you don’t have to rely solely on the Agency’s view if you have solid grounds for not aggregating. The unofficial message some people have heard from the Agency is that it will be civilised towards those who have genuinely attempted to understand the situation but made an honest mistake, but it will come down hard on those who it deems are trying to exploit loopholes.

As mentioned at the top of this article, the Agency is setting up a special group to consider IPPC aggregation, case by case. Nigel Penlington has asked it to produce a form that producers can complete and submit to the group with the necessary maps and paperwork. Having such a form should speed up the process and will also create a paper trail, which could subsequently be useful to both parties.

I’m sorry this article is largely conjecture but that’s just the way it is at the moment, even though the opening of the permit application window is only 79 days away.

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