The implementation of the Countryside Stewardship scheme has been flawed but it remains the best option for members in England who are looking to maintain and enhance the natural environment they manage. The UK Government has committed to honour the full duration of signed Countryside Stewardship agreements so the scheme is officially ‘Brexit-proof’.
As the scheme enters its third year, a number of improvements, many suggested by the CLA, have been made. Evidence requirements have now been simplified, claims can now be submitted online, the application windows now open earlier and Natural England, which administers the scheme, has allocated more staff to support applicants.
- Higher Tier application packs will need to be requested by 13 April 2017
- The deadline for submitting initial applications for Higher Tier, including woodland improvement is 5 May 2017
- Mid Tier applications need to be submitted by 30 September 2017
- Mid Tier application packs will need to be requested by 31 July 2017
Natural England has committed to contacting everyone who has a Higher Level Stewardship or Entry Level Stewardship agreement expiring this year and advising them as to which scheme they will be most suited to.
However, members are advised to be proactive. If you are interested in the scheme you should contact Natural England and discuss what you would like to do. The organisation will be able to set out what options are available to you.
The biggest message from Natural England is to apply early. This will increase the likelihood that your application will be processed quickly. Don’t wait until the last week to apply. Natural England has limited resource and the single start date for the scheme, a European requirement, means this resource is under intense pressure.
Advice to applicants
- Request an application pack as soon as possible
- Submit your application before the deadline
- Keep your application simple, clear and accurate
- Although it is a competitive scheme about 90% of all Mid Tier applications were approved in the last two years. You don’t need to overcomplicate it to be successful
- Double check that the relevant evidence is there and correct
- The Government website includes all the necessary information for the scheme: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-stewardship-get-paid-for-environmental-land-management
- Natural England can be contacted via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone 0208 026 1089
- For more advice on how to submit a successful Countryside Stewardship application attend one of the CLA’s regional events. Members can also talk directly to our advisers.
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