GS8: Creation of species-rich grassland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the creation of species-rich grassland option.

How much will be paid

£267 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 a part parcel

Only on arable, set-aside or temporary grassland that has high or medium potential for the creation of priority habitat (if it has medium potential written support from a Natural England specialist is required).

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 permanently ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers or streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • temporary water
  • permanent water less than or equal to 0.1ha, at the discretion of Natural England)
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways (as long as the requirements of the option can still be carried out)
  • bracken
  • scree, rock outcrops and boulders up to 0.1ha
  • grazed woodland and scrub that has grass underneath it and that livestock can access, at the discretion of Natural England
  • small areas of other habitat types, such as reedbeds, at the discretion of Natural England

How this option will benefit the environment

It will create priority grasslands and establish a wide range of important plant species. Many other priority species, such as bumblebees, butterflies, birds or bats, will also benefit, and buried archaeological features will not be disturbed.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • establish a flower rich grassland in the first year
  • maintain it as permanent grassland
  • maintain a range of plant heights suitable for invertebrates, birds or other priority species
  • manage the grassland by grazing, hay cutting, or a mixture of both
  • maintain a continuous cover, particularly over historic features
  • use very little or no manure, fertiliser, pesticide or supplementary feed
  • maintain scrub, rushes and other potentially dominating plants at the levels set out in the agreement
  • control undesirable plants (these can be specified in the agreement)

A detailed implementation timetable must be agreed to create the grassland. This should set out how it will be created, including details of the varieties and quantities of seed or plant material to be used and where they’ll come from, and how the grassland will be managed after the seeds or plants are introduced.

Do not:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed after the grassland has been successfully established, unless agreed with Natural England
  • harrow, roll or allow scrub or bracken to encroach on historic or archaeological features
  • carry out activities that may disturb breeding birds or damage nests

Keeping records

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

  • receipted invoices, consents or permissions connected with the work
  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • a standard soil analysis, to be completed in the final agreement year and results submitted with final claim
  • inputs used
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record

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

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • photographs showing any areas where sward enhancement will be carried out
  • confirmation that eligibility requirements have been met
  • a standard soil analysis, including analysis of organic matter by loss on ignition
  • a map of the existing drainage system

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 how to carry out this option successfully but may not be specified in the prescriptions.

How to choose a site

This option works best on infertile soils where the soil phosphorus index (as shown by the soil analysis) is low, and the sward and soil seedbank are not dominated by aggressive plant species or injurious weeds.

Species-rich grassland can sometimes be created by natural regeneration (possibly by adding extra plant species) or, much more commonly, through cultivating and sowing an agreed seed mix.

This option will normally be targeted at sites that are next to or close to existing species-rich grasslands.

How to manage the site

The requirements for this option will be tailored to the site, but in most cases the following will be needed:

Upland calcareous and other very extensively managed grassland, especially in large parcels, may not be accepted for this option. Such grassland may be eligible for other options, such as:

Once the grassland has become a priority habitat, it may be eligible for option GS6 - Management of species-rich grassland.

Further information

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

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.