Countryside Stewardship

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 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 SW adviser can help you develop an application that works for you and the environment.

 

In 2020, FWAG SouthWest completed 144 applications on behalf of farmers in the region.
Below illustrates the financial benefits of those applications we submitted.

  

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

 

Higher Tier

The Higher Tier scheme 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, a NE adviser will oversee the application process.

Higher Tier is open to request an Initial Application pack until 31st March 2021. Initial Applications must be submitted by 30th April 2021. If you think the Higher Tier scheme is for you then early contact with your local Natural England officer is strongly recommended.

 

Mid Tier

The Mid Tier scheme 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. Agreements last for five years. There are no options or capital items for woodland in Mid Tier (please see below for separate scheme information). Educational access is now available as an option under Mid Tier for agreements starting in January 2022, this was previously only a Higher Tier option. There is no direct assistance from Natural England, you must submit your application by yourself or with the help of an adviser.

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 and Wild Pollinator Package, endorsement by a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (where applicable) or being part of a Facilitation 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 the Offers for Wildlife applications (please see below for full information on the Offers).

The nine options which were brought down from Higher Tier in 2018 remain available under Mid Tier for the 2021 application round. These options will need prior approval from the RPA and must be requested before 28th May 2021. These include options targeting traditional orchards, wetland and species rich grassland. In addition, any water quality options that require Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) approval must be requested by 18th June 2021 (or six weeks prior to submitting your application). We therefore recommend applying for your application pack as quickly as possible to ensure you are prepared by the initial deadlines.

Before you apply you must check if any consent or permissions are needed for certain options and capital items, i.e. from your local planning authority or the Environment Agency. Once you have your RPA, CSF and other permissions in place, your completed Mid-Tier Application must be submitted by 30th July 2021.

To order your application pack online log into your Rural Payments account via www.rpa.gov.uk. Once logged in, under Business Overview click on Countryside Stewardship and then Countryside Stewardship Applications.

 

Wildlife Offers

There are four Offers for Wildlife that are designed to fit with specific farm types: Arable, Upland, Lowland Grazing and Mixed Farm. These packages 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, however, you may apply for the new Capital Grants Offer (see below) alongside your Wildlife Offer.

Each Offer has a set of options and minimum requirements. You need to meet these requirements to be eligible for funding. Each option has a specific wildlife benefit and its own payment rate. The Wildlife Offer agreement will last five years. You are limited to one application for each Single Business Identifier (SBI) you have for this round of Wildlife Offers. You must submit your application by 30th July 2021.

 

New Capital Grants Offer

The new CS Capital Grants Offer enhances and expands the former Hedgerow and Boundaries Grant (HBG) and the Water Capital only grant. You can enter land parcels in a Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier Wildlife Offer agreement into the CS Capital Grants Offer application. This is because the Countryside Stewardship Wildlife Offers do not include any funding for capital works. However, you cannot enter land parcels in any other form of Countryside Stewardship agreement (Higher Tier, other Mid Tier agreements) into the CS Capital Grants application. Land parcels in Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) are now eligible, providing there is no conflict in the requirements for each agreement.

There are 67 capital items to select from, all of which can be applied for online. The capital items available will include capital grants within the following groups: Boundaries, Trees and Orchards, Water Quality, Air Quality. The maximum amount of funding available for any application has been increased, however there is a limit of £20,000 within each option grouping. Applications for the new Capital Grants Offer will close on 30th April 2021.

 

The Agricultural Transition Period

Applications submitted in this round of Countryside Stewardship will go live in January 2022. Entering the Countryside Stewardship scheme now will help prepare your business to join the Environmental Land Management (E.L.M) scheme when it is launched in 2024. With information now published on the changes to the BPS scheme including the reduction in payments and the removal of Greening, Countryside Stewardship offers an opportunity to apply for funding for measures previously not available due to Greening requirements and an opportunity to provide a secure source of income for your business. If successful you will be able to terminate your Countryside Stewardship agreement early, without penalty, to transfer into the E.L.M scheme.