A SOUTH Cumbrian farmer has spoken of his delight at a decision to remove long-running sheep restrictions caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

David Ellwood, who runs a flock of 700 sheep at Baskill Farm, Ulpha, is one of eight Cumbrian farmers to finally be freed of the movement controls after 26 years.

But Mr Ellwood says the restrictions should have been lifted ‘years ago’.

The Food Standards Agency placed controls on 9,800 UK farms following the world's worst radiation leak in 1986.

Blown by an easterly wind, radioactive particles accumulated on the fells and were ingested by grazing sh-eep.

The affected farms in Cumbria and 327 in Wales will see the 'mark and release' restrictions removed from June 1.

Under the restr-ictions, sheep had to be tested for levels of Caesium-137 before they could be moved down from the fells to be sold.

Mr Ellwood said: “I’m pretty pleased they’re lifting the restrictions because this has been going on for long enough. Over the last 12 years or so it’s been pretty pointless.

“It will certainly make farming easier.

“I won’t have to keep running to the ministry to get the sheep checked before selling them. I can just take them straight to the auction.”

Mr Ellwood moved to Baskill Farm after the Chernobyl disaster, so has never operated without the restr-ictions. Farmers have been paid a headage fee of £1.30 per animal — set in 1986 and never increased — to compensate for the cost of holding the sheep before monitoring.

The controls were lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000 and in Scotland in 2010.

Adam Briggs, policy advisor for the NFU in the North West, said: “For many people Chernobyl is a thing of the past but it's something very real for those farmers who have been dealing with the consequences for more than 25 years.

“Now that the FSA has proven the meat is safe to eat it will finally allow the farmers to draw a line under this and move forward.”