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Countryside Stewardship Schemes

With many Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and some Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) schemes due to end later this year, now is the time to start considering the new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme as a possible replacement.

Whilst there have been delays in the publication of the scheme booklets containing the exact prescriptions and target areas, we are now getting a better idea of how the application process will work and the financial aspects of the management prescriptions.  Natural England plan to allow farmers and agents to apply for Countryside Stewardship up to the 30th September, for agreements to start on the 1st January 2016.

As with previous stewardship schemes the main focus for Countryside Stewardship will be biodiversity, alongside water quality, the historic environment and educational access. The majority of the agreements will last for 5 years.

There will broadly be a three tier approach and Natural England have developed a new targeting and scoring approach to ensure that those who best address environmental issues are offered schemes going forwards. Applications will be competitive.

  • The Higher Tier of CS will be reserved for the most environmentally sensitive land, woodland areas and commons that need more complex management options.
  • There is no “Entry Level” equivalent to the CS scheme but it is likely that the Mid-Tier could replace a number of current ELS schemes. This will include a new Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package which will be accessible under both the Mid and Higher tier schemes. Applicants who apply for the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package in the Mid-Tier will score more highly in their CS Application.
  • A Lower Tier scheme will provide for capital works such as Hedgerow planting. The “Hedgerows and Boundaries” grant will offer a maximum of £5,000 per application for farmers who do not have a Higher or Mid-Tier Scheme or any form of Environmental Stewardship scheme.

A list of the new options has been released, with some options increasing in value whilst others have decreased. Below is an example of the rates for some of the familiar options:

Option

ELS/HLS (£ per Ha)

CS (£ per Ha)

Nectar Flower Mixes

£450

£511

Over-wintered Stubbles

£120

£84

Wild Bird Food

£450/£475

£640

Grassland for Waders and Wildfowl

£255

£157

Nesting plots for Lapwing and Stone Curlew

£360

£524