Countryside Stewardship Scheme opens

9th February 2021

Today saw the opening of the application window for Countryside Stewardship agreements. Farmers are encouraged to review the various opportunities as changes have been made to widen the range of options available and also making it easier to apply.

Amongst the 67 available options are new opportunities focused on improving water quality, air quality as well as reducing ammonia emissions. A full schedule of the changes is set out below:

  • New options to help improve air quality, reduce ammonia emissions and improve water quality.
  • An improved Countryside Stewardship capital grant offer, making 67 options available which can sit alongside a Countryside Stewardship Wildlife offer
  • New wood pasture options in the uplands, at payment rates suitable for upland applications, providing a mosaic habitat of grassland, scrub, and trees
  • The Countryside Stewardship capital offer to be available to Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement holders, where the options are compatible
  • Improved woodland options, including bringing bracken control and stone wall options into woodland management and combining Woodland Creation and Woodland Maintenance grants
  • Increased number of capital items that farmers can apply for using the Rural Payments service, covering water capital, hedgerows and boundaries, and air quality
  • Expanded eligibility criteria for the upland option UP2 (management of rough grazing for birds), enabling more land managers to access this option and further improve the upland offer

In addition to the above, the level of funding has been increased to £60,000, capped at £20,000 within three of the funding groups.

Opportunities available under the Country Stewardship Scheme 2021

Capital Grants – Boundaries Trees & Orchards, Water Quality, Air Quality (deadline 30th April 2021)
A two-year capital only agreements to deliver specific environmental outcomes, including hedgerows and boundary improvements, delivery of water and air quality objectives.

Some of the options available under the Capital Grant, which are new or were previously only available under the Mid-Tier agreement, include:

  • Boundaries, Trees, and Orchards
    • planting new hedges
    • wooden field gate
    • tree surgery
  • Water Quality
    • fencing, sheep netting, and rabbit fencing
    • gateway relocation
    • pond management
  • Air Quality
    • automatic slurry scraper
    • low ammonia emission flooring for livestock buildings
    • supply and plant a tree
    • supplement for use of individual tree shelters

*Some options underwater and air quality require approval from a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CSFO) and are only available if in a high priority water area.

Mid-Tier (application deadline Friday 30th July 2021)
A five-year agreement providing a mixture of revenue payment options, supplements, and capital items to achieve simple and effective environmental benefits.

Higher-Tier (application deadline Friday 30th April 2021)
A five, ten, and in some cases 20-year, agreement with a range of options, supplements, and capital items for environmentally significant sites, commons, and woodlands.

Woodland Creation and Maintenance Grant (open for applications all year)
Funding to supply plant and weed young trees over a minimum of three Ha. The woodland creation and woodland maintenance options have been brought together so that one automatically leads into the other.

Woodland Management Plan (open for applications all year)
A Capital grant to apply for a one-off payment to create a 10-year Woodland Management Plan over a minimum of three hectares. When you have achieved a grant agreement you have two years to create the Woodland Management Plan which must then be approved by the Forestry Commission.

Wildlife Offers – Arable, Lowland Grazing, Mixed Farming, Upland (application deadline Friday 30th July 2021)
Non-competitive five-year agreements for specific farm types with a set of options and minimum requirements. These have been designed to help farmers and land managers to protect wildlife and preserve the natural environment. These offers are quicker and simpler to apply for than the mid-tier and high-tier schemes, and they are not scored, meaning that you will get an agreement if you make a valid application.

In addition to the above the schemes include:

  • Expanded educational access provision to farmers in Mid-Tier agreements to let school pupils visit farms for educational experiences and for care farming visits.
  • Broadened advice surrounding the Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme; additional advice on air quality and flood mitigation, as well as on diffuse water pollution.
  • The potential to run a further round of the Facilitation Fund, to help groups of farmers work together to improve the natural environment at a landscape scale and achieve greater improvements than individual holdings could on their own.

To discuss the above in more detail, for advice or assistance with an application contact our Farm team on 0333 920 2220.

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