Friday, 9 September 2016

New agri-environment agreements

Farmers and landowners need to get their skates on now the government has pledged to honour existing and new agri-environment agreements beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

This is on condition applications to the new scheme are submitted before the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement - and the application deadline for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is September 30.

Countryside Stewardship provides financial incentives for land managers to look after their environment through activities such as:

•    Conserving and restoring wildlife habitats
•    Flood risk management
•    Woodland creation and management
•    Reducing widespread water pollution from agriculture
•    Keeping the character of the countryside
•    Preserving features important to the history of the rural landscape
•    Encouraging educational access

The scheme is open to all eligible farmers and landowners but it is competitive with points awarded on how well the application enhances local targets to maximise environmental benefit.

There are three main elements to the scheme - the Mid Tier, Higher Tier and Capital Grants.  The Higher Tier is primarily available to those farmers who are leaving an existing Higher Level Stewardship e but the Mid Tier is of interest to farmers more widely, as is the Capital Grant scheme.

Last year was the first year of this scheme and a disappointing number of applications were received because the rules are relatively complicated and the level of financial support is lower than predecessor schemes.  However, possibly because of this, all the applications my firm submitted on behalf of clients in the South West were accepted.

In making an application obviously you must focus on the priority targets for your area and these can be found on line here.

Natural England are tasked with running the scheme and if anyone wants to find out more about it, their contact details are: Natural England, County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP. Email and phone 0300 060 3900.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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