The Nitrates Directive requires member states to designate as nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) any land draining to waters identified as polluted, or likely to be polluted, by nitrates from agricultural sources. These designations must be reviewed at least every four years. Nearly 55 per cent. of land in England is currently designated as NVZs.
The directive further requires an action programme to be established and implemented within the designated NVZs to protect the identified waters. The directive offers member states the option of applying action programme measures across the whole of its national territory. The four-yearly review of designations is not required where this option is followed. The Government have opted to take a discrete area approach to implementing the directive.
A review of NVZ designations, as required by the directive, is nearing completion. Depending on the outcome, consideration may be given to adopting a whole territory approach and to applying action programme measures throughout England. This issue would be subject to a full public consultation.