New Countryside Stewardship scheme announced
It replaces Environmental Stewardship, the English Woodland grant scheme and capital grants from the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme.
With the Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) now closed to new applicants, the Countryside Stewardship scheme will determine how much advice and support applicants will receive from Natural England and the Forestry Commission throughout the application process.
The new scheme has three main elements:
Higher tier agreements are aimed at environmentally significant sites such as commons and woodland and contain complex provisions not unlike HLS. One-to-one advice and support is available from Natural England and Forestry Commission woodland officers, and agreements typically last five years.
Mid tier agreements are aimed at environmental improvements in the wider countryside (not woodlands and use) using less complex provisions, not unlike ELS. Advice will only be available online, and the agreements last five years.
Capital grants will support a range of capital items including hedgerows, boundaries, woodlands (including restoration and improvement) and improving water quality. Capital agreements will typically last one or two years.
Applications for Countryside Stewardship opened in July.
Anyone with a Higher Level Stewardship agreement expiring in 2016 may be eligible to convert the agreement into a higher tier Countryside Stewardship and will be contacted by Natural England. The mid and higher tiers are competitive so not every applicant is guaranteed success.
Applications will be paper based in 2015 but you must register with the new Rural Payments Service online. Once registered you can build and submit your application.
Only land without a commitment to an agreement on it on 1 January of the scheme year is eligible to enter Countryside Stewardship. Further guidance can be obtained from Natural England’s website.