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Countryside Access (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

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Citation, commencement and interpretation

1.—(1) These Regulations may be cited as the Countryside Access (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 and shall come into operation on 1st January 1997.

(2) The Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954(1) shall apply to these Regulations as it applies to a Measure of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Amendments to the Countryside Access Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

2.—(1) The Countryside Access Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996(2) shall be amended as provided by paragraphs (2) to (6).

(2) In regulation 2(2) (Interpretation)—

(a)after the definition of “access strategy document” there shall be inserted the following definition—

  • “agri-environment scheme” means an arrangement which is—

    (a)

    regulated by a statutory provision providing for the payment of aid to persons who give an undertaking or enter an agreement by reference to that statutory provision; and

    (b)

    approved by the Commission of the European Communities under Article 7(3) of the Council Regulation as part of a zonal programme drawn up pursuant to Article 3 of the Council Regulation,

(b)after the definition of “beneficiary” there shall be inserted the following definitions—

“the Commission Regulation” means Commission Regulation (EC) No. 746/96(3) laying down detailed rules for the application of the Council Regulation;

“the Council Regulation” means Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2078/92(4) on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the countryside as last amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2772/95(5) as rectified by Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1962/96(6);

(c)in the definition of “eligible person” after the word “document” there shall be added—

and is not prohibited from providing an undertaking pursuant to an agri-environment scheme either by application of a penalty consequent upon Article 20(2) of the Commission Regulation (which requires member States to determine a system of penalties which are effective, commensurate with their purpose and of adequate deterrent effect to be imposed for breaches of undertakings) or by application of Article 20(3) of the Commission Regulation (which requires a person who, intentionally or by reason of gross negligence, makes a false declaration, to be excluded from all aid under the Council Regulation);

(3) In regulation 6 (Change of occupation)—

(a)after paragraph (2) there shall be inserted the following paragraph—

(2A) The Department shall not accept an undertaking referred to in paragraph (1)(b) unless it is satisfied that the new occupier is not prohibited from providing an undertaking pursuant to an agri-environment scheme by application of Article 10 of the Commission Regulation (which restricts duplication of aid payments), by application of a penalty consequent upon Article 20(2) of the Commission Regulation (which requires member States to determine a system of penalties which are effective, commensurate with their purpose and of adequate deterrent effect to be imposed for breaches of undertakings) or by application of Article 20(3) of the Commission Regulation (which requires a person who, intentionally or by reason of gross negligence, makes a false declaration, to be excluded from all aid under the Council Regulation).; and

(b)for paragraph (6) there shall be substituted—

(6) The foregoing provisions of this Regulation shall be subject to Article 11 of the Commission Regulation (which governs transfers of holdings) and Article 12 of the Commission Regulation (force majeure);.

(4) In regulation 7 (Amounts of aid and claims) for paragraph (1) there shall be substituted—

(1) Subject to the provisions of these Regulations, of Article 20(3) of the Commission Regulation (which requires a person who, intentionally or by reason of gross negligence, makes a false declaration, to be excluded from all aid under the Council Regulation) and, in respect of an application made on or after 1st January 1997, of Article 10 of the Commission Regulation (which restricts duplication of aid payments), the Department shall make payments of aid in respect of each year of the duration of the undertakings referred to in regulation 3.

(5) For regulation 10 (Withholding and recovery of aid) there shall be substituted the following regulation—

Withholding and recovery of aid, termination and exclusion

10.(1) Where any person, with a view to obtaining the payment of aid under these Regulations to himself or any other person makes any statement or furnishes any information which is false or misleading, the Department may withhold the whole or any part of any aid payable to that person or to such other person and may, subject to the provisions of Article 20 of the Commission Regulation (which provides for recovery of wrongful payments with interest, a penalty system and exclusion for false declarations), recover the whole or any part of any aid already paid to that person or to such other person.

(2) Where a beneficiary—

(a)fails to comply with any of the undertakings referred to in regulation 3;

(b)fails to permit entry and inspection by an authorised person or to render all reasonable assistance to such authorised person as required by regulation 9; or

(c)fails to comply with any other requirement of these Regulations,

the Department may withhold the whole or any part of any aid payable to that beneficiary and may recover the whole or any part of any aid already paid to him and may also, in so far as is permitted by Article 20(2) of the Commission Regulation (which requires member States to determine a system of penalties which are effective, commensurate with their purpose and of adequate deterrent effect to be imposed for breaches of undertakings), require him to pay to the Department a sum equal to no more than 10% of the aid paid or payable to the beneficiary.

(3) Where the Department takes any step specified in paragraph (1) or (2), it may also treat as terminated the undertakings given by the beneficiary under these Regulations.

(4) Where under paragraph (3) the Department treats the undertakings given by the beneficiary as terminated, in connection with any step taken under paragraph (1) or (2), it may also in so far as is consequent upon Article 20(2) of the Commission Regulation by notice in writing to the beneficiary prohibit him from providing a new undertaking or entering a new agreement under an agri-environment scheme for such period (not exceeding two years) from the date of that termination as is specified in the notice.

(5) Where there is a change of occupation of all or part of the beneficiary’s farmland or farm lane which is subject to management requirements set out in the Schedule, and the Department, in accordance with paragraph (3), subsequently treats as terminated the undertakings given by a beneficiary in relation to any part of that farmland or farm lane as the case may be, it may—

(a)withhold the whole or any part of any aid payable to the new occupier; and

(b)recover the whole or part of any aid already paid to him.

(6) The powers in paragraph (5)(a) and (b) shall not be exercised against a new occupier unless the Department notified him in writing at the time his undertaking under regulation 6(1)(b) was given, with specific reference to the farmland or farm lane in relation to which he undertook to comply with the obligations assumed by the original beneficiary, of the circumstances in which those powers could be exercised against him.

(7) Before taking any step specified in paragraph (2), (3) or (4) by reference to paragraph (2)(a) or (c), or any step specified in paragraph (5), the Department shall—

(a)give to the beneficiary a written explanation of the reasons for the step proposed to be taken;

(b)afford the beneficiary the opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed for that purposes by the Department; and

(c)consider the report by the person so appointed and supply a copy of the report to the beneficiary.

(6) After regulation 10 (withholding and recovery of aid) there shall be added the following regulations—

Recovery of interest

10A.(1) Where a payment of aid is made to a beneficiary by the Department and, by virtue of Article 20(1) of the Commission Regulation (which provides for recovery of wrongful payments with interest), the beneficiary is required to reimburse all or part of the payment with interest, the rate of interest shall be one percentage point above LIBOR on a day to day basis.

(2) For the purposes of this regulation, LIBOR means the sterling three month London interbank offered rate in force during the period specified in Article 20(1) of the Commission Regulation.

(3) In any proceedings relating to this regulation, a certificate of the Department stating the LIBOR applicable during a period specified in the certificate shall be conclusive evidence of the rate applicable in the specified period if the certificate also states that the Bank of England notified the Department of that rate.

Recovery of payments

10B.  In any case, where an amount falls to be paid to the Department by virtue of (or by virtue of action taken under) these Regulations or the Commission Regulation, the amount so falling to be paid shall be recoverable as a civil debt.

Sealed with the Official Seal of the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland on 23rd December 1996.

L.S.

Liam McKibben

Assistant Secretary

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