Deadline approaches for Expression of interest into the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme Higher Tier

19th June 2015

Barely has the dust settled on all the paper accumulated with the Basic Payment Scheme application, when another deadline starts to loom large. Natural England is inviting expressions of interest for applications to the Higher Tier of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Claire Bainbridge, Rural Chartered Surveyor at George F White commented “The Higher Tier is competitive and targeted at environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands that need more complex management and support. It is the equivalent of the Higher Level Stewardship, and those with expiring agreements may want to submit an Expression of Interest form by 15th July 2015. These forms will be assessed and those that offer the best environmental value will be offered direct support to develop their Higher Tier application”.

The window for applications is from July 1st 2015 and September 30th 2015 with successful applications being confirmed by December 2015, and agreements commencing on 1st January 2016. The expression of interest form is available on the website. If you miss the 15th July deadline, you can still develop a Higher Tier application but on the understanding that support from Natural England or the Forestry Commission will be limited. Agreements will require a survey of the features to be included in the application, which will be done by the Natural England adviser supporting the application, at no cost to the applicant.

Claire added “As the 15th July approaches its imperative that those wanting to be considered for Higher Tier in 2016 start the ball rolling. With many of our farming sectors suffering from price volatility due to global pressures, exchange rate as well as domestic pressure, having secure income through environmental schemes is often crucial to many farming businesses in our region.”

Land being considered for a Higher Tier agreement must include one or more of the following:

  • Features, issues and opportunities that require management options or capital items that are only available in a Higher Tier agreement
  • Land that is registered common land;
  • Woodland being proposed for woodland improvement (infrastructure, capital or a multi annual agreement) and has a Forestry Commission approved woodland management plan;
  • Applications where Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package is to be applied to more than 5% of the farmed area.

In many cases Natural England and the Forestry Commission will be aware of sites that offer significant environmental benefits and will have written to those with expiring HLS agreements who may be eligible. On submission of an Expression of Interest form Natural England will then provide support with the application process. Claire concluded that “farmers and land managers should submit an Expression of Interest form if they feel that their farm is an environmentally significant site, irrespective of whether they have received a letter from Natural England”.

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