Countryside Stewardship Scheme: What Next and Will it Work for You?

14th August 2015

Following the launch of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, Natural England has called for Mid-Tier applications. Countryside Stewardship (CS) is an amalgamation of what was previously in place: Environmental Stewardship (ELS), English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS) and Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) and the window to apply this year closes on Wednesday 30th September.

Commenting on the scheme and its significance to the rural sector, Claire Bainbridge, Rural Chartered Surveyor at George F. White, said “It’s been a rather slow affair as, even at this late stage not all the information is available or known, which makes it very difficult to promote and advise but there are some fundamentals that landowners and farmers need to be aware of. For example, in order to apply you need to be registered with the Rural Payments, (if you applied for the Basic Payment Scheme you will already be registered). However, unlike ELS, CS Mid-Tier is competitive, therefore if your application doesn’t give enough environmental merit it may not be successful. ELS was a whole farm scheme and for each hectare, you received a flat payment. Mid-Tier is a parcel based scheme, and any options applied have a set payment rate. Applicants must make sure that any previous environmental stewardship agreement has finished before 2016, before submitting an application. Anyone wishing to apply for any element of the scheme needs to be aware that there is a one application per year rule, so if you’re applying for a capital grant and Mid-Tier, you would need to apply at the same time.”

The scheme has been designed to ensure that applications suit the environmental needs of the location – applications that do not match the priorities set for the area are unlikely to score high enough to be successful. For those wishing to see at a glance what they can do on their holding and how much they will get paid, it’s not so straightforward. It is impossible to say what options are a priority and available, and see how much a scheme will pay at a glance, as every application will be different and the money available is dependent on the options chosen and a successful application.

Claire continued: “A successful application will have chosen options that suit the farm and match the priority statement for the local area. The country has been split into different targeting areas, with detailed priority maps for each. The North East, for example, has 15 different priority maps. Applicants need to download the Priority Map for their area and then open and apply the various layers to see whether different priorities are High, Medium or Low for your farm.”

“If options are high priority for your area, they score higher, with further weighting given to your score by having options endorsed by a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer, or by being in a “hotspot” or entering into the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. This score is then assessed on whether it gives value for money and the total cost of the agreement. If you are in the uplands, especially with Moorland, applicants need to be aware that there are no specific moorland options, so careful consideration is required when choosing options to ensure success and replace much needed ELS and UELS monies. The final score is then ranked against other applications. The greater the score, the better chance of success.”

If you are considering applying for Countryside Stewardship this year and would like to discuss any element of the scheme, please contact Claire Bainbridge at George F. White on clairebainbridge@georgefwhite.co.uk (07870 644946) or David Hume on davidhume@georgefwhite.co.uk (07739 321588).

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