SB5: Mechanical bracken control

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the mechanical bracken control item.

How much will be paid

£169 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this item

Available for Higher Tier

Only with a land management option and where agreed with Natural England.

How this item will benefit the environment

This item is for mechanically controlling bracken. This will restore or maintain high value natural habitats and their associated wildlife, protect archaeological features and help maintain or enhance the landscape’s character.


Agreement holders will need to agree with Natural England or, in woodland, the Forestry Commission, a specification for the work.

Keeping records

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

  • any consents or permissions connected with the work
  • receipted invoices or bank statements where a receipted invoice is unavailable
  • copies of the implementation plan or feasibility study, if one exists
  • please see the record keeping and inspection requirements as set out in the Higher Tier manual for more detail

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them with the claim:

  • photographs of the completed work

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

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this item

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

Bracken control

If the application is successful one of two approaches will be followed depending on the size and complexity of the bracken problem. There is no fixed threshold, but Natural England will help with the choice.

Large sites

On larger sites, particularly where major habitat restoration is involved, a Natural England approved Implementation Plan or Feasibility Study will be needed. This will include:

  • areas to be controlled
  • methods of control
  • follow up treatments to control re-growth
  • any risks to sites of archaeological or ecological importance, soil erosion risks or effects on the landscape (short and long term)

Small sites

On smaller, less complex sites an Implementation Plan or Feasibility Study may not be needed. On such sites a simple plan may suffice, one that includes a map showing areas to be treated and dates of control.

Environmental concerns

Make sure that the planned bracken control has a minimal negative effect on other environmental interests on the site. You should follow Natural England’s bracken control guidelines.

In general, mechanical control may cause more disturbance to archaeological sites, ground nesting birds and invertebrates than chemical control. During the nesting season make sure that birds are not nesting in the treated area.


The site should be treated twice in year 1 and this repeated for at least three years, depending on the level of success achieved.

Site regeneration

As the site regenerates, control any bracken regrowth or weeds such as nettle, thistle, dock or ragwort. More effective bracken control may result if combined with appropriate grazing, where possible, due to the effects of trampling.

Further information

Further information is available from:

  • Symes, N. & 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 29 March 2016 + show all updates
  1. Information updated for applications in 2016
  2. First published.