LH3: Creation of heathland from arable or improved grassland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the creation of heathland from arable or improved grassland option.

How much will be paid

£517 per hectare (ha).

How long this option lasts

This option lasts for 10 years, instead of the standard 5 years for the grant scheme.

Where to use this option

Available for Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


On the following land if soil nutrient levels are low (a soil test will be needed to confirm this when applying, see below):

  • arable
  • temporary grassland
  • improved permanent grassland

The best site is likely to be on well-drained sandy soil, former heathland that, ideally, has only been intensively managed for a few years. Sites are ideally near existing heathlands, so as to increase their extent and decrease fragmentation.

Where this option cannot be used

  • on land that has previously been granted 10 years agri-environment funding (such as Higher Level Stewardship) for the creation of lowland heathland
  • on areas that are better suited to grassland creation options (where those options should be used instead).
  • unsuitable sites are likely to:

    • have a high pH with high (above 2) residual N, P and K indices
    • have been intensively managed for many years
    • be small, isolated areas away from existing heathland
    • have never been heathland in the past

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • bare ground
  • open water
  • scrub

How this option will benefit the environment

Lowland heathland will be created, which includes mosaics with lowland acid grassland, on arable or improved grassland sites that have largely lost their heathland seed bank.

Heathland species should normally start to appear within 1 to 3 years. The heathland areas in this option will develop a diverse mosaic structure and composition, including undisturbed bare ground and varied vegetation of different ages.

The cover of undesirable species should be low and vegetation that increases when undermanaged (such as bracken, trees, dense grass tussocks) will need to be kept under control. Locally characteristic plant communities and the species they support (such as nightjar, woodlark, smooth snake or sand lizard) will colonise the site, if it’s within their range.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • where necessary, carry out hydrological restoration measures, such as reversing drainage on potential wet heath areas by damming ditches or blocking drains
  • encourage colonisation by using heather seed (directly or in brush or capsules) or cuttings, preferably from a donor site nearby
  • graze or cut the colonising heathland vegetation at set times
  • manage undesirable species, such as thistles, willowherbs, bramble and bracken, to keep cover under 10%

Do not:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • apply fertilisers, manures or lime
  • carry out supplementary feeding
  • use pesticides, including herbicides, except to spot treat or weed wipe or to control injurious weeds or invasive non-natives

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • copies of the Wildfire Risk Assessment and, where required, the Wildfire Response Plan (agreed with fire service) and Wildfire Management Plan - for guidance and example plans see the Uplands Management Group template or Forestry Commission’s guide
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • consents or permissions connected with this work
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record
  • a standard soil analysis carried out in the last 5 years. The rules for farmers and land managers to prevent water pollution already require farmers and land managers to carry out soil testing on cultivated agricultural land - you can use these test results to meet the record-keeping requirements for this option.

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

The detailed requirements for this option will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option.

Take an integrated approach to heathland restoration. This includes considering landscape character and visual effects, archaeology and wildlife. Boundaries with nearby land uses will need to be considered, as will possible scrub clearance, fencing and public access issues.

Further information

Get further information from:

  • Symes, N. and Day, J. 2003. A practical guide to the restoration and management of lowland heathland, The RSPB, Sandy
  • guidance on habitat management for reptiles from the ARC Trust

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 28 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Same bullet as below also updated to standardise soil testing information.

  2. Under heading “Keeping records”, bullet about soil analysis corrected to remove “… including analysis of organic matter by loss on ignition.”

  3. Updated keeping records section for evidence required with claim.

  4. Updated for 2017 applications.

  5. Information updated for applications in 2016.

  6. First published.