Applications open on July 1 for farmers to join Countryside Stewardship which provides funding to protect and enhance the natural environment, particularly the diversity of wildlife and water.
The CAP-funded scheme is run by Natural England and the Forestry Commission on behalf of Defra. Claims are managed by the Rural Payments Agency and applicants (including those who have had agreements with previous schemes) must be registered on the Rural Payments service.
Unlike previous schemes, most elements of Countryside Stewardship are competitive, which means that not everyone who applies will be successful.
“Applicants will be scored higher if they choose options that help achieve the environmental priorities that are important in their local area, set out in the 159 Statement of Priorities for England,” explained Oswestry land agent Kathryn Lewis at Davis Meade Property Consultants.
Some elements of the scheme can be applied for at any time of the year whilst others have set periods when applications can be submitted.
Some Woodland Capital Grants and Water Capital Grants are already open for applications for a limited period in 2015 so there are funding opportunities throughout the year. These will be incorporated into the Mid Tier, Higher Tier and Capital Grant elements of Countryside Stewardship from July 2015 onwards. Funding for Facilitation is also already open for applications from people or businesses to help land managers work together to deliver Countryside Stewardship priorities across landscapes.
There are three main elements to the scheme.
- Mid Tier: multi-year agreements for environmental improvements in the wider countryside.
- Higher Tier: multi-year agreements for environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands.
- Capital Grants: a range of 1-2 year grants for hedgerows and boundaries, improving water quality, developing plans, woodland creation and tree health.Applications for organic conversion and maintenance options are NOT competitive.
- To avoid double funding, cross-checks will be made against Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims to ensure the management proposed under Countryside Stewardship is compatible with the BPS land use entered for each land parcel.
- Eleven options are only available to organic farmers and land managers, including options for conversion to organic status and to maintain organic land status once fully converted. Other scheme options and items can be run in conjunction with organic systems, if compatible.
Nineteen Countryside Stewardship options will have their payment rate reduced where the land is also used to meet Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirements for BPS. The reduced rate only applies for the years where the land is declared for EFA.
Existing Environmental Stewardship and English Woodland Grant Scheme holders may be able to move into a new scheme when their schemes expire. For example, ELS, UELS and OELS agreements expiring on or before 31 December 2015 are likely to be eligible for Mid Tier agreements starting January 2016 while HLS agreement holders expiring in 2016 will be contacted by Natural England to discuss if their existing agreements meets the new scheme criteria.
More details will be provided in the scheme manual when it is published later in the year. In the meantime, contact Kathryn Lewis at Davis Meade Property Consultants for more information and advice on eligibility on 01691 659658 or email email@example.com.