Natural England are responding to the slow uptake of their Countryside Stewardship schemes in recent years by launching new and improved (and simplified!) packages in early 2018.
New Mid Tier Streamlined Packages
There will be four new streamlined Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier packages available from January 2018. The four packages will be as follows:
- Lowland grazing
- Mixed farming
Only the arable package will be available for online applications. The other three packages will be via paper only. The schemes will last for five years and consist of a simplified list of management options. The full scheme rules and handbooks will be published in January 2018 when the scheme is launched.
Hedgerows and Boundaries Capital Grants
This will also be available again in 2018, but the application window will open earlier and the maximum grant has been increased from £5,000 to £10,000.
These measures are welcome additions to Countryside Stewardship and offer a great opportunity to those who, quite rightly, have been put off in recent years due to the overly complex and labour-intensive Stewardship schemes. Most importantly, the new schemes are not ‘competitive’. This is a massive improvement to the standard schemes where days of work could be at risk if Natural England deemed another application ‘better’ than yours under their complex scoring system.
The Hedgerows and Boundaries grant has been a relatively simple scheme to apply for in recent years so an increase from £5,000 to £10,000 maximum grant is a really useful change.
With farm subsidy support likely to come under increasing pressure, we would strongly recommend that farmers and land managers consider applying.