Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Countryside Stewardship publicity requirements cause concern

The requirements for landowners receiving funds from the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to erect signage advertising the fact are causing concern across, not least because, at the time of writing, there appears to be very little information available.

With less than two months to go before the signs are supposed to be in place, there is a very real risk that scheme applicants could be penalised for circumstances beyond their control.

Under the terms of the agreements, those receiving more than €10,000 over a five year CSS agreement are obliged to put up an A3 size poster “to publicise receipt of EU funding” in a location readily visible to the public; those in receipt of more than €50,000 for capital items must erect a 300mm x 300mm plaque and those in receipt of more than €500,000, a 4ft x 6ft billboard. The posters, plaques, and billboards must be in place on 1 January 2016, and must remain in place for the duration of the agreement. Those who do not comply will be in breach of their agreement and will be “subject to a penalty or recovery of payments”.

However, there is no information yet from the Government on what materials the various items should be made from or what information they should display, meaning that landowners may face a struggle to get signs completed on time if the information is not released soon. Enquiries to Natural England have brought the response that further information is to be released soon and will be downloadable from its website. In passing, the official Countryside Stewardship manual has now been updated for the 14th time since June.

 There is further uncertainty relating to the planning requirements of such items. Many rural areas will be designated “Areas of Special Control of Advertisements” where the planning control for signage is more rigorous. There are exemptions for signs required by government or public agencies, but enquiries to the Winchester City Council Planning Team, which covers both urban and an extensive rural district, have suggested that both a 6ft by 4ft billboard and a 300 mm by 300 mm plaque would require planning permission and that their initial interpretation of the Countryside Stewardship manual and the existing signage regulations gave no indication that this type of advertisement would automatically receive an exemption.

In addition to this, recipients with a “professional website” (which presumably means one that is connected to their business), must also include a “short description of the agreement which links the website and the financial support provided, highlighting the financial support from the EU”. Again there does not seem to be any specific guidance or suggested wording for this yet.

Those with funding in excess of €10,000 for Capital Water Projects will be supplied with an A3 poster by Natural England which is to be displayed “while capital work is being carried out”, which appears to imply that as soon as work is finished the poster can be removed, unlike those for five year agreements.

The onus is on the agreement holders to assess whether the publicity requirements apply to them, and it is the responsibility of the agreement holder to fund the production and installation of the poster, plaque or billboard.

Edward Dixon
Graduate Surveyor - Winchester
01962 833397