The Countryside Stewardship 2018 application round is now open for Mid-Tier applications.

FWAG SW has a wealth of experience in the range of grants on offer and their suitability for your farm business. We can prepare and submit an application on your behalf and help with your evidence and record keeping requirements.
Entrance into most elements of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme is competitive. The success of an application will depend on selecting the right options for the right places, according to local environmental priorities. Your local FWAG adviser can help you to develop a that works for you and the environment.

Countryside Stewardship has several elements, the main two being Mid Tier and Higher Tier. Outside of these are a number of stand alone grant schemes, all of which are listed below.
Mid Tier

The Mid Tier offers management options and capital items to achieve simple, but effective environmental benefits. The options are tailored towards local priorities in the wider countryside. The choice of management options on offer is more limited than in Higher Tier, but still includes some organic and upland options. Agreements last for 5 years. There are no options or capital items for woodland or educational access in the Mid Tier and there is no direct assistance from Natural England.

Applications will be given a basic score according to delivery of local priorities. There are various ways in which the basic score can be enhanced, such as delivering the Farm Wildlife & Wild Pollinator Package, endorsement by a Catchment Sensitive Farming (where applicable) or being part of a Facilitated Group. Finally, the application will be assessed for “value for money”.

The only elements of Mid-Tier that are not competitive are the organic conversion and management options and, new for 2018, applications that fulfill the “Offers for Wildlife” packages. There are four Offers for Wildlife that are designed to fit with specific farm types: Arable, Upland, Lowland Grazing and Mixed Farms, and follow a simplified application process with a limited range of options. The Offers do not include any capital items such as hedge laying or fencing. We can advise on whether the Offers for Wildlife are right for you, but in many cases, we expect that you will achieve a more rounded agreement by completing a full Mid-Tier Application. Applications for all of the Offers can be submitted by post, in addition the arable Offer can be applied for online, if you have less than 100 field parcels.

Also new for 2018, nine options have been brought down from Higher Tier and are now available under Mid-Tier. These options will need prior approval from Natural England and an additional request form must be submitted before 31st May 2018. These include options targeting: traditional orchards, species rich grassland and wetlands. In addition, any water quality options that require Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) endorsement require applicants to request a visit before 31st May 2018. We therefore recommend requesting your application packs as quickly as possible to ensure you are prepared by the initial deadlines.

If you are interested in applying for any options that require planning permission or Environment Agency consent it is vital to start the application process as soon as possible to get the permissions in place before the application deadline. Once you have your Natural England, CSF and other permissions in place, your completed Mid-Tier Application must be submitted by 31st July 2018

To order your application pack telephone Natural England Enquiries Team on 0208 026 1089 or email enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk. You will be asked which pack you would like:

Mid Tier Water Capital Grants

Grants for improving water quality are also available as a capital only agreement. Mid-Tier Water Capital Grants run for 2 years and the maximum agreement value is £10,000. As with multi-annual agreements some Countryside Stewardship capital items require written support from your local Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CSFO). If endorsement is required, you will need to contact your local CSFO before 31st May.

Higher Tier

The Higher Tier targets the most environmentally significant sites, such as nationally important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Scheduled Ancient Monuments, commons and woodlands. It offers a wider and more complex range of annual management and one-off capital payments to reflect the special needs of these habitats and features.

The first step towards entry into the Higher Tier is either through the submission of an Initial Application (previously called an “Expression of Interest”) or an invitation by Natural England. If NE approve the Initial Application or you are invited to apply, an NE adviser will oversee the application process.

Higher Tier is open to request an Initial Application pack until 9th March 2018. Initial Applications must be submitted by 13th April 2018. If you think the Higher Tier is for you then early contact with your local Natural England officer is strongly recommended and FWAG SouthWest can help put you in touch.

Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant

The Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant is a standalone capital grant which aims to produce environmental and landscape benefits by improving hedgerows and boundaries on your land. A maximum grant of £10,000 per farm business is available. Agreements will run for a maximum of two years and the application window is open from 15th January until 30th April 2018.

Woodland Creation

The woodland creation grant window is open from 2nd January to 16th February 2018 for this year’s round.
This 2-year standalone grant provides funding to supply, plant, weed and protect young trees, payments are capped at £6,800/ha.
The application must be at least 3ha in total, with a minimum block size of 0.5Ha. However, applications down to 1ha are accepted for schemes that will improve water quality or reduce flooding. After the initial application is submitted a woodland officer will work with your advisor to finalise the woodland design and grant.
There will also be the option to apply for a maintenance grant to help with the upkeep of the new woodland of £200/ha for up to 10 years, through the Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier Option WD1 Woodland Creation Maintenance, where eligible.
Although this land can’t be used for any agricultural activity, including grazing, for the length of the maintenance grant, the landowner can continue to claim Basic Payment Scheme payments on the land for that 10 year period.

Woodland Management Plans

This is a two-year capital grant to complete a Forestry Commission approved woodland management plan (WMP). Working with FWAG advisors, a WMP can help you develop objectives and a work schedule for your woods, providing benefits to wildlife and your farm business. An approved WMP also allows you to access further grants for woodland improvement through a Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme, see above.
The WMP capital grant is £1000 for woodlands up to 100ha, with an additional £10/ha over the first 100ha. To be eligible you must have at least 3ha of woodland on your holding. The application window is open all year.