Overall, the Countryside Stewardship programme aims to benefits the following key areas (in order of importance):
- Water quality and natural flood management
- climate change adaption and mitigation
- historic environment and landscape
- educational access
Key action points for potential applicants:
Check your existing agreements: if you have an existing ELS/HLS agreement, you will have to wait until that agreement ends before you can be entered into one of the new schemes.
Know who to contact: if you have an existing HLS scheme, you will be contacted by Natural England or the Forestry Commission before the end of your existing scheme. All Higher Tier applications must be discussed with these two organisations before submission.
Get ready: if you have an existing ELS scheme, you will need to apply through the Gov.uk website between July – September 2015. All agreements start on 1 January of the year following.
Double check your Ecological Focus Area plans under the new Basic Payment System: there are some Countryside Stewardship options which can be used on EFA areas, but others will result in double funding penalties reducing the amount offered.
Plan your funding: if you have existing HLS/ELS schemes the new agreements will only run from 1 January each so, you if you have an existing ELS scheme that expires in February, you will receive no funding until January of the following year.
Watch this space: Mid Tier targeting frameworks and further guidance is expected to be published on the 17th of March.
Water Capital Grants of up to £10,000 per holding, aimed at reducing water pollution from agriculture, and Woodland Creation Grants will be delivered by Natural England, the Forestry Commission, and the Rural Payments Agency with applications only in written format. Water Capital Grants applications can be made from 2 March to 30 April 2015. Works must be completed and claimed by 29 January 2016. Defra currently plans that applications for Woodland Creation Grants can be made from 17 February 2015 – submission dates vary and can be found by clicking here.
Documents on the Countryside Stewardship scheme can be found by clicking here.
For more information please get in contact with Edward Dixon
T: 01962 833397