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Rural: Why should you apply for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme?

Tue 9 February 2021

Today, DEFRA have announced that the 2021 Countryside Stewardship Scheme is open for applications. The current Countryside Stewardship Schemes will remain in place until 2023, with the final round of agreements starting in January 2024.

We encourage farmers and landowners to look at the options available under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme whilst we wait for the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) to be launched as a way of making their business more resilient and sustainable. Utilisation of the grants available will make their business more productive and ensure a smooth transition to the ELMS in the future. We suggest looking at where you would like your business to be in ten years’ time and utilise the available schemes as a steppingstone.

Opportunities available under the Country Stewardship Scheme 2021

Mid-Tier (deadline 30th July 2021) 
A five-year agreement providing a mixture of revenue payment options, supplements and capital items to achieve simple and effective environmental benefits.

Higher-Tier (deadline 30th April 2021)
A five, ten, and in some cases 20-year, agreement with a range of options, supplements and capital items for environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands. 

Wildlife Offers – Arable, Lowland Grazing, Mixed Farming, Upland (deadline 30th July 2021)
Non-competitive five-year agreements for specific farm types with a set of options and minimum requirements. These have been designed to help farmers and land managers to protect wildlife and preserve the natural environment. These offers are quicker and simpler to apply for than the mid-tier and high-tier schemes, and they are not scored, meaning that you will get an agreement if you make a valid application.

Capital Grants – Boundaries Trees & Orchards, Water Quality, Air Quality (deadline 30th April 2021)
A two-year capital only agreements to deliver specific environmental outcomes, including hedgerows and boundary improvements, delivery of water and air quality objectives. 

Woodland Creation and Maintenance Grant (open for applications all year)
Funding to supply plant and weed young trees over a minimum of three Ha. The woodland creation and woodland maintenance options have been brought together, so that one automatically leads into the other.

Woodland Management Plan (open for applications all year)
A Capital grant to apply for a one-off payment to create a 10-year Woodland Management Plan over a minimum of three Ha. When you have achieved a grant agreement you have two years to create the Woodland Management Plan which must then be approved by the Forestry Commission.

All agreements will begin on 1st January 2022.

Key Changes to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme 2021

Capital Grants now offer 67 standalone capital items under three groups:
  • Boundaries, trees and orchards
  • Water quality
  • Air quality 
The level of funding has increased to £60,000; however, this is capped at £20,000 within the three groups. 

Some of the options available under the Capital Grant, which are new or were previously only available under the Mid-Tier agreement, include:
  • Boundaries, Trees and Orchards 
    • planting new hedges
    • wooden field gate
    • tree surgery
  • Water Quality
    • fencing, sheep netting and rabbit fencing
    • gateway relocation
    • pond management
  • Air Quality
    • automatic slurry scraper
    • low ammonia emission flooring for livestock buildings
    • supply and plant a tree
    • supplement for use of individual tree shelters
*Some options under water and air quality require approval from a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CSFO) and are only available if in a high priority water area. 

Expanded educational access provision to farmers in Mid-Tier agreements to let school pupils visit farms for educational experiences and for care farming visits.

Broadened advice surrounding the Catchment Sensitive Farming scheme; additional advice on air quality and flood mitigation, as well as on diffuse water pollution.

The potential to run a further round of the Facilitation Fund, to help groups of farmers work together to improve the natural environment at a landscape scale and achieve greater improvements than individual holdings could on their own.

If you would like to speak to discuss the options that are best suited to your business, our local team of rural funding experts would be more than happy to have a conversation with you:

Alnwick | Helen Proud
Hexham | Amanda Wilson
Sedgefield | Joanne Metcalfe
Northallerton | James Thompson