What is Countryside Stewardship?

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At The Land App, we host a fully formatted and authoritative template for creating and designing Countryside Stewardship schemes. But what is Countryside Stewardship, and how can I make the most of this scheme? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions.

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What is Countryside Stewardship?

Countryside Stewardship, sometimes referred to as CSS or CS, is the publicly funded scheme for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers to be financially incentivised to improve and enhance the environment.

The aim of the Countryside Stewardship scheme is to look after and improve the environment by:

  • conserving and restoring wildlife habitats
  • flood risk management
  • woodland creation and management
  • reducing widespread water pollution from agriculture
  • keeping the character of the countryside
  • preserving historical features in the landscape
  • encouraging educational access

The main elements to the scheme are:

  • Mid Tier
  • Wildlife Offers
  • Higher Tier
  • Capital grants
  • Woodland support grants

To learn more, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-stewardship

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How can I apply for Countryside Stewardship?

You must apply for Countryside Stewardship with the Rural Payments Agency. Depending of what scheme you choose to apply for will affect the route you need to take. For full guidance on the Mid Tier, Higher Tier, Wildlife Offers, CS Capital Grants, Woodland support grants, Historic building restoration grant or Catchment Sensitive Farming, please visit the Countryside Stewardship Payments page: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/countryside-stewardship-get-paid-for-environmental-land-management 

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Am I eligible for Countryside Stewardship?

To be eligible for Countryside Stewardship, you must be either an owner-occupier, tenant, landlord or licensor. Most agricultural land is eligible, including arable land, permanent grassland or permanent crops. Protected sites (such as Priority Habitats, SSSIs or Special Areas of Conservation) are also eligible but may require written support from Natural England. 

For full guidelines, see the Countryside Stewardship manual 2021: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/920552/Countryside_Stewardship_Mid_Tier_2020_CS64_v1.0.pdf

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How much will I get paid for Countryside Stewardship?

The payment rates for your scheme are dependent on the total area involved, the types of chosen options used, and whether any capital items are included in the application. Some example payment rates include £539 per hectare per year for AB8: Flower rich margins and plots, £4.90 for FG2: Sheep netting fencing and £353 per hectare per year for SW1: 4m to 6m buffer strip on cultivated land. For a full list of Countryside Stewardship Payments, and the available options, see: https://www.gov.uk/countryside-stewardship-grants

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When is the application deadline for Countryside Stewardship?

The deadline for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to receive your application (including any supporting documents and evidence that needs to be submitted) is 30 July 2021. 

For a full list of deadlines, please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/countryside-stewardship-2021-how-to-apply-by-email-or-post-for-mid-tier/key-dates-for-countryside-stewardship-mid-tier
For information on the Countryside Stewardship scheme 2022, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/improved-countryside-stewardship-scheme-opens-for-2022-agreements#:~:text=Improved%20Countryside%20Stewardship%20scheme%20opens%20for%202022%20agreements,-Farmers%20and%20land&text=the%20natural%20environment.-,Farmers%20and%20land%20managers%20are%20being%20encouraged%20to%20apply%20for,today%20(Tuesday%209%20February).

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Can I digitally plan my scheme, rather than using the paper map provided by the RPA?

The Land App can help you interactively plan and organise your application. Our easy-to-use tool allows you to download your current field parcels as an interactive map (that sits on Ordnance Survey or satellite imagery), design a scheme fit for your holding and export to a clean, formatted summary table.

The Land App assists you from starting your plans by mapping your holding using Rural Payments Agency field parcel data, right through to printing off your plan ready for application submission to the RPA. For a full walk-through webinar on how to use The Land App for Countryside Stewardship applications; see here: https://help.thelandapp.com/en/articles/5040587-training-webinar-series-bps-css 

For a direct link to the video, click here: https://youtu.be/z85N64HX3tM

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Should I wait for Environmental Land Management (ELM) or apply for Countryside Stewardship?

As there are still a number of trials running across the country looking at all angles of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELM), Defra is still to announce the full scope of what ELM will entail when it rolls out in 2024. We would recommend that you get in touch with your local environmental or agricultural adviser to enable you to make the best-informed decision for your holding. 

One point of note would be that Countryside Stewardship is a contracted minimum of 5-years. Defra communications suggest that you may move to the ELM scheme if the offer is better than your Countryside Stewardship scheme. To quote “If you are successful in securing a place in ELM, then you can terminate your Countryside Stewardship agreement early, without penalty, at the end of an agreement year so you can join the ELM scheme” – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/920552/Countryside_Stewardship_Mid_Tier_2020_CS64_v1.0.pdf