The 2020 Countryside Stewardship Scheme was launched on 11 February. Applications for the scheme, which includes a mid and a higher tier, alongside a standalone capital works scheme – Hedgerows & Boundaries Grant- are now open
David Morley, head of conservation & environment for H&H Land & Estates (pictured), said that there are no fundamental changes to the Scheme design.
Hedgerows & Boundaries Grant
This scheme offers standalone capital grants of up to £10,000 for hedgerow and dry-stone wall restoration. Grants are paid at “standard” rates (e.g. £25 per metre for wall restoration, £9.50 per metre for hedgerow gapping-up). The application window is open until 1st May 2020 and applications can be submitted online through Rural Payments. Farmers who applied successfully last year can apply again but businesses that have not previously received a grant will be given priority, if there is not enough money to go around.
This scheme offers 5-year agreements with options that are generally simpler than Higher Tier and is aimed at delivering environmental gains at a landscape scale across the wider countryside. Applications can include a 2-year capital works programme of hedgerow planting, hedge laying or gapping up and dry-stone wall restoration
For a Mid Tier agreement to start on 1 January 2021, the application window runs until 31st July 2020, but paper application packs must be ordered by 31 May or downloaded online by 30th June.
Higher Tier is targeted at land that can deliver significant conservation gains. It is aimed mainly at farms coming out of Higher Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS) agreements and farms with Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), moorland, woodland or other high priority habitats.
An initial application needs to be submitted by 1 May 2020 Application packs must be ordered by 31 March.
It is already 5 years since the first CS applications were made and many of those agreements will finish at the end of this year. In most cases, the RPA is offering CS agreement holders the opportunity to extend their agreement for a further 12 months.
David Morley commented: “The RPA has asked agreement holders to either accept or decline the extension offer by 20th March so if you are in any doubt about your current or future position with regard to the Scheme, please seek professional advice as soon as possible before making a decision as the clock has started to tick on deadlines for this year.”