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The Countryside Stewardship Scheme

Applications are now open for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. The scheme provides financial incentives to eligible farmers, foresters, woodland owners and other land managers to look after and improve their environment.

Applications can be made for:

  • Mid Tier

  • Wildlife Offers

  • Higher Tier

  • Capital grants

  • Woodland support grants

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme is made up of a number of different elements, including Mid Tier Agreement and High Tier Agreement; woodland creation and management; options to help improve wildlife on farms, and grants for boundaries, trees and orchards, water and air quality.

Applications under the scheme are made to the Rural Payments Agency.

With Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments beginning to reduce this year and with BPS payments being phased out between 2021 and 2027, the first payments under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme should begin to be received at the end of 2022. The new Environmental Land Management Scheme will also be introduced.

Manuals are available to explain the scheme rules, including who can apply and what land is eligible, together with how to apply guides to help with applications.

Mid Tier and Wildlife Offers applications are open from 9 February 2021 to 30 July 2021. Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier (including Wildlife Offer) will commence on 1 January 2022. An application pack may be requested online, using Rural Payments service, until 30 June 2021.

Under the Mid Tier Scheme, rural grants and payments may be made to support activities that support the local environment. This particular route offers a wide range of management options and capital grants. An application may be made for a combination of grants that are most relevant to your particular business and local environment. Grants are available as two year grants for specific capital works, and multi-year grants where payments are made every year for five years. Most applications are competitive, meaning they will be scored and ranked. An agreement will be offered to successful applicants and, if accepted, the Countryside Stewardship Agreement will start on 1 January 2022. Payment amount depends on the options and capital items chosen and compliance with the agreement.

Grants are available as management options and capital items.

Management Options:

  • Manage land for the benefit of local wildlife

    Providing sources of nectar and pollen for insect pollinators

    Providing winter food and nesting habitats for farmland birds

  • Support local priority habitats such as:

    Species-rich grasslands;

    Wetlands, rivers, streams, ponds and ditches;

    Hedges, orchards, wood pastures and parklands

  • Manage flood risk in your local area

  • Convert and manage land to organic certification standards

  • Manage and maintain landscape features, such as maintaining traditional farm buildings and maintaining Sites of Special Scientific Interest and scheduled monuments.

Capital Grants

Capital grants are available to help manage and maintain boundaries on your land including hedgerows and dry stone walls, manage water and air pollution and improve water quality in a high water quality priority area.

Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package (WPFWP)

This package is separate from the Wildlife Offers. It helps to provide farmland wildlife with the things they need to thrive and breed successfully.

The Wildlife Offers

There are four Wildlife Offers to choose from. Choose this route for a wide range of management options focusing on providing habitats for farm wildlife. This is the quickest and easiest way to apply for the Mid Tier. It is also non-competitive, which means you just have to meet minimum eligibility requirements for the offer.

Wildlife Offers help to provide:

  • Sources of nectar and pollen for insect pollinators

  • Winter food for seed-eating birds

  • Improved habitats, particularly for farmland birds and pollinators

Receive an annual payment each year for 5 years.

Apply online for a Wildlife Offer using the Rural Payments Service until 30 July 2021.

For Higher Tier applications, initial applications are open from 9 February 2021 to 30 April 2021. The Higher Tier covers more environmentally significant sites, commons and woodlands.

Applications may be made for capital grants. There are 67 standalone capital items within three groups:

  • Boundaries, trees and orchards

  • Water quality

  • Air quality

The aim is to protect and enhance the natural environment by increasing biodiversity, boosting habitats and improving water and air quality.

The following woodland support grants are available all year:

  • Woodland creation and maintenance grant

  • Woodland management plan grant

  • Woodland tree health grant

The Higher Tier also provides grants for woodland management.

Source: GOV.UK: Wildlife Offers: Countryside Stewardship (updated 22 February 2021)

New Rules are Shortly to Come into Force in Relation to the Abstraction of Water from Rivers, Wetlands and Boreholes

Previously exempt activities such as trickle irrigation for growing potatoes will require a licence from the Environment Agency. The deadline is 31 December 2019.

The new rules are an attempt by the Environment Agency to reduce the amount of water extracted from, in particular, streams with a modest flow. They follow the hot and dry summer of 2018 when there was much criticism of potato farms using spray irrigation.

Who Needs to Apply?

Any farmer, householder or business wanting to draw 4400 gallons (20m³) of water per day from a water course, wetland or a borehole will need to acquire a licence through the Environment Agency website. As a rough guide this is a similar amount to a medium sized milk tanker or equates to 260 baths a day. These water abstraction rules will better protect the environment by helping to balance the needs of abstractors while protecting scarce water supplies and the plants and animals that rely on them.

How Do I Apply for a Licence?

Enquiries can be made by calling 03708 506 506 or emailing enquiries@environment‐agency.gov.uk stating “New Authorisations” in the email subject. The Environment Agency strongly recommends that people submit their applications before the end of September 2019, as it can take up to three months to validate an application.

At Lanyon Bowdler our commercial and agricultural property team is well versed in all aspects of agriculture. If you have any queries relating to an agricultural matter, please contact us here.

Metal Detecting

Metal detecting and the prospect of unearthing buried treasure is something that has always fascinated me. I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was at school but my teachers seemed less keen, so that was that. The rest, as they say, is history.

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I have visited the British Museum in London many times over the years and marvelled at some of the finds that are displayed there, particularly the artefacts from the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the Mildenhall Treasure. The Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver is probably the most recent metal detecting hoard that I have been to see. Now that I have just begun my fifth decade, I am hoping soon to become the proud new owner of my very own metal detector. The fields of Shropshire await!

But what rules do I need to abide by?

First, the owner of the land, where I intend to use my metal detector must be contacted, and their written permission sought, to allow me to search with my detector on the land.

It is illegal to search on public or private land without permission, or to search on a designated area, such as a site of Special Scientific Interest. The National Council of Metal Detecting website has a model agreement which can be downloaded (ncmd.co.uk). Also, the National Farmers’ Union’s website has its own model clause for the use of NFU members. These agreements can help determine issues such as the area to be searched, and how any income received from a find will be split between the metal detectorist and the landowner (a potentially important consideration).

Second, follow the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting. All finds should be recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Third, the Treasure Act 1996 redefined the meaning of “treasure” for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In broad terms, “treasure” now includes all objects containing precious metal that were buried for any reason and are at least 300 years old. Failure to record a find of “treasure” could result in a fine and/or up to three months in prison. Finds must be reported to the coroner in the district in which it was found within 14 days.

The local finds liaison officer at your local county council can do this for you. If the coroner declares the find to be treasure, museums will have the opportunity to purchase it. The treasure is valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee and they recommend a figure to the Secretary of State for Culture. The museum pay that amount if the valuation is agreed and a reward (equal to the full market value of the treasure) is usually paid to the finder and/or the owner/occupier of the land.

If the reward is payable to more than one person, the Secretary of State will determine how much is to be paid to each, although it is usually split equally between the finder and the landowner (this is where a written agreement may come in useful). If a museum does not want to acquire the treasure, it can be disclaimed and given back to the finder or landowner.

Fourth, non-treasure finds are governed by the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, where finders are encouraged to voluntarily record their archaeological finds. In the last 20 years the number of recorded finds – both treasure and non treasure– has increased exponentially. Apparently, about 95% of finds are discovered by members of the public and there are up to 10,000 regular metal detectorists. Again, a prior written agreement with the landowner will be helpful in determining what is to happen to any object found.

It is thought that there is a huge amount of treasure just waiting to be discovered and therefore there is no time to waste - I had better get that metal detector and start searching!

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14 Sep 2018

Metal Detecting

Metal detecting and the prospect of unearthing buried treasure is something that has always fascinated me. I wanted t...

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