Dirty farmers are accused of ruining the landscape

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The Independent Online
DUMPING AND pollution are having a devastating effect on soil and threatening to destroy the beauty of the English landscape, it was claimed yesterday.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England produced a Soil Charter, calling for the Government to take urgent action to prevent the loss of "a vital living resource".

The CPRE said that only farmers who managed their soil responsibly should receive agricultural support payments.

The action follows research which found that the over-use of inorganic fertilisers is leaving soil vulnerable to erosion by water and wind.

The chemicals are also leaching into underground water supplies, particularly in the shallow soils of the Cotswolds and the sandlands of Nottinghamshire. In Norfolk and the Suffolk Valley the leaking of sulphur dioxide and ammonia from industrial and agricultural sources is causing soil to be over- acidic. And atmospheric pollution is responsible for damage to the soils underlying mosslands to the north of Liverpool.

Alan Titchmarsh, who presents gardening programmes on television and radio, spoke out for the CPRE. "We owe much more to soil than many would believe. The variation in soils underpins the beauty and diversity of the English landscape. Soil also acts as a filter and reservoir for water, regulating flow to groundwaters and rivers."

Gregor Hutcheon, CPRE's Rural Affairs Officer, said there were concerns that soil might be harmed by the practice of spreading sewage and paper pulp directly onto land.

"Water and waste authorities are not able to dispose into the sea, so they are looking for alternatives," he said. "But there are concerns that the material could contain heavy metals."

The CPRE wants the Government to take tough action against polluters and dumpers and introduce measures to counteract soil erosion, as part of a Soil Protection Strategy due to be published later this year.