The CLA is asking Defra to extend the application window for Expressions of Intent for higher tier Countryside Stewardship agreements by one month, to relieve the pressure on land managers who received delayed or incomplete application packs from Natural England.
The Countryside Stewardship scheme is designed to provide payment for land managers to care for the environment. Applicants for the scheme’s higher tier, which covers more complex activities and the most environmentally significant sites, must submit a detailed Expression of Intent to Natural England by 30 April.
CLA Deputy President Tim Breitmeyer said: “The Countryside Stewardship scheme is extremely important in enabling land managers to carry out works specifically for environmental benefit. However an onerous application process when the new-look scheme was introduced last year was a major contributor to low levels of take up – we do not want to see landowners put off for similar reasons this year. There have been improvements made overall but we are concerned about the impact of the squeezed window for higher tier Expressions of Intent.
“The CLA supported the creation of a six week window for the Expression of Intent, to allow unsuccessful higher tier applicants the option of applying for mid tier. However there have been delays in land managers receiving application packs, and inconsistent advice from Natural England on what information they need to provide. In some cases there have also been inaccuracies in the pre-filled application packs. The Expressions of Intent require a lot of work, and the squeezed timescales are making it difficult for land managers meet the 30 April deadline. All this at a time when BPS applications need to be completed too.
“If the result is that some land managers who intended to submit higher tier applications are not able do so in the squeezed timeframe, both their businesses and the environment will suffer. We are asking for the application window be extended by one month to the end of May.”